BUCHAREST - Romanian authorities have covered up crucial documents and sacked whistleblowing academics to please a Canadian company planning to open a huge gold mine in the heart of Transylvania, rights groups say.
The company, Gabriel Resources, hopes to extract 300 tonnes of gold from four mountains surrounding the picturesque village of Rosia Montana, in what is expected to become Europe's biggest open-cast mine.
With lawmakers expected to vote soon on a bill clearing the way for the mine, experts said the company and the government were striving to hide key data.
The Canadian company, which holds an 80-per cent stake in the Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC), plans to use large amounts of cyanide to separate gold from hundreds of millions of tonnes of rock.
The waste, containing heavy metals and cyanide, is to be stored in an artificial lake in the Corna Valley covering 360 hectares (900 acres) and contained by a 180-metre-high (590-foot) dam.
But geologists have warned that the site is underlain by fault-lines which will allow toxic substances to leak into the ground, and accused the company of using maps from which the faults had mysteriously vanished.
Displaying maps dating back to 1979 which clearly show faults in the Corna Valley, the sacked director of the Romanian Geological Institute (IGR), Stefan Marincea, told AFP: "The area is extremely permeable and the risk of groundwater contamination very high."
Marincea was dismissed by the government a few days after making the same argument before a parliamentary committee tasked with analysing the company's plans.
"I see no reason for my dismissal other than my insistence on telling the truth, which may anger some people today but will still be valid 20 years from now," he said.