BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania's prime minister predicted Monday that Parliament will not approve a proposed Canadian gold mine that has led to large protests over the cyanide that would be used in its extraction process.
Victor Ponta said he would look for other ways to find jobs in the deprived area where Canadian company Gabriel Resources has been trying to get permits to build what would be the biggest gold mine in Europe by razing four mountains to make way for an open pit mine.
For that to happen, Parliament must pass legislation that would approve the mine in Rosia Montana town in a mining area of northwest Romania as a "special national interest" that would create foreign investment and jobs in the deprived area.
Thousands of Romanians have protested this week, both for and against the proposed mine. Supporters say it would bring foreign investment and jobs, but opponents — who have held the largest protests — say it would be too big an environmental risk.
The leader of two main political parties said Monday they oppose the project, but no date has been set for Parliament's vote.
Gabriel Resources said in a statement that if Parliament rejects the legislation, it would assess what recourse is open to it, including suing Romania for "multiple breaches of international investment treaties."
Anti-mine protesters have said the project would hand over Romania's assets to the Canadian company and the country would earn too little from the deal.
Ponta has acknowledged that his government could be sued by Gabriel Resources, but he said Monday that he and his Cabinet ministers don't want to be held responsible for "undermining the national economy."
President Traian Basescu and Ponta have accused each other of illicitly taking money to support the proposed mine. But Basescu, who once strongly supported the project, last week announced that he would take a neutral stance on the legislation.