A Canadian mining company lost arbitration proceedings against Romania on Friday, which had blocked its project to operate a gold mine on a site now listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, Bucharest announced. The company Gabriel Resources was demanding up to $6.7 billion (€6.1 billion) in damages from the Romanian government for suspending its development project near the village of Rosia Montana, in the Carpathians.

In this town is the site of the ancient Roman gold mines, housing mining galleries dating back 2,000 years, and which UNESCO has included on the world heritage list in 2021. The International Center for the Settlement of Disputes Relating to Investments (ICSID) – an arbitration group of the World Bank – rejected the compensation claims of Gabriel Resources, in a decision made public Friday evening by the Romanian government.

Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu welcomed the news, while criticizing the action of previous governments. “Romanians must not suffer from the decisions of certain prime ministers who placed their personal interests above national interests,” he wrote on Facebook. In a press release, Gabriel Resources castigated a “deeply flawed” decision, “inconsistent with the objective evaluation of the elements of the file”, and reserves the possibility of “contesting it via the annulment procedure provided for by the ICSID Convention” .

“Shareholders invested hundreds of millions of dollars to carry out a mining project which would have brought significant social and financial benefits” to Romania, regretted CEO Dragos Tanase. The Canadian company had obtained a license to operate gold mines in the region in 1999 but its project was suspended in 2013, after huge demonstrations to protest in particular against the use of cyanide to extract gold.

Gabriel Resources intended to extract 300 tonnes of gold and 1,600 tonnes of silver by shattering four massifs, including most of the Roman remains. In 2016, Romania declared the Rosia Montana complex a site of historical interest, thus benefiting from protection against mining activity. In the complaint filed with the ICSID, Gabriel Resources accused the Romanian government of “failing to act within the framework of an administrative procedure when it had the obligation to do so” and of not having offered it compensation for stopping the project.

The company also deplored the fact that Romania had not offered compensation after the project was stopped. Residents of Rosia Montana were divided over the gold mining project, with some welcoming the potential economic opportunities, others worried about its impact on the environment.