Romania's president said Monday he supports a controversial gold mining project in western Transylvania, but protesters said it could cause an environmental disaster.
President Traian Basescu said during a visit to the proposed site that "any country that has resources must use them" and that the investment by Canada's Rosia Montana Gold Corp. would bring jobs. The site is expected to contain 300 tons of gold and 1,600 tons of silver.
He also said that politicians who oppose the projected have delayed it since 1997.
During his visit, small groups of people who favor the mine and who oppose it gathered outside town hall in Rosia Montana, western Romania. Mediafax news agency said supporters shouted, "We want to mine! We want to work!", while the opponents were calling them "traitors."
Opponents say building the open-cast mine would damage ancient monuments in the area and destroy a mountain face. They also have criticized a gold-extracting process that would use cyanide.
In 2000, an estimated 100 tons of the lethal substance spilled from Romania into Hungary's Tisza River and the Danube, killing large numbers of fish in Hungary and Serbia in one of the region's worst recent environmental disasters.
Rosia Montana Gold Corp. has said it will be careful to preserve the environment.
The company still needs to get permits to go ahead with the project.