Livia Lazar – Ro?ia Montana
According to a recent report by the Romanian Ministry for Agriculture and Forests, the mining project implies the deforestation of 700 ha of forests and pastures covered with forests.
I spent a few days in Rosia Montana, situated in Western Romania, in the Apuseni Mountains of Transylvania. Its Roman name was Alburnus Maior and it has been a site for the mining of both silver and gold continuously for over 2,000 years. There are Roman and pre-Roman and more recent underground galleries (over 70 km in all). The special local conditions permit the conservation of wooden objects. Despite considerable reworking over centuries of the mining sites, there are still remains of Roman mining equipment. It is a mono-industrial area and there is strong local pressure to exploit the natural resources and provide jobs for the local miners. Recently, a new opencast mining project has been launched by Rosia Montana Gold Company (RMGC), a Romanian Company owned 80% by Gabriel Resources (a Canadian-based Company) and 20% owned by the Romanian Government. This has raised concerns on environmental and social grounds (requiring relocation of a substantial portion of the local population), and also on cultural grounds because of the history of the area.
Geamana village, erased from the map; some people still live in the poisonous area.
Gheorghe, in front of his house in Rosia Montana.
The actual pipe through which toxic residues are continuously discharged in the area.
The gold mining company promises modern bungalows but in a desolate place with no land for small holdings, nor even much garden. Under the stress of the situation people have started to sell, not to the company but to a property agent. Prices offered are very high for the region. They only move out and receive payment if the project goes ahead. Thus, the company has installed ‘cuckoos in the nest’ who will fight for their common cause against people who oppose the project, most of them not living in the area. Others, bought some land and built improvised houses and holdings on it, hoping that if the works will start, they will sell it to the company and obtain a good price with which, as this woman told me, ‘I can ensure my daughter a future’.
Lorena is 4 years old; her mother (in the background), Ileana, celebrated her 22nd aniversary the day I met her. Lorena has an younger brother, Marian whom I met later. Their father works in the village for less than 300 euros per month. They live in Lupsa, in the Apuseni mountains (Romania), just five minutes walking from Geamana, a village which practically disappeared under the deposition of gray unoxidized sulfidic tailings from the copper mine at Rosia Poieni.
No matter how much you travel the world, there are places that will always define you. After almost 4 years living in the UK, I decided to go back to Romania in my attempt to find and rediscover the things, places, people and memories that shaped my identity. I was not looking for my English Language course book. It is probably somewhere in the attic, together with my childhood toys and the first love letters. Instead, I tried to understand the impact of globalisation and migration on people’s idea of identity through my own experience, attempting at creating the premises for reflection on Self and how it is influenced by the places we live in and the ones in which we were born. Throughout this experience, photography was used as a tool not only for recording and gathering data but also for getting closer to people, talking to them and allowing a deeper introspection.I have always wanted to photograph my country but never really engaged in such a complex project with a coherent idea in mind. I started to photograph England as a newcomer, being driven by my desire to know and discover the new environment I settled in; but now I decided to return to Romania and rediscover my country and my roots. Although it might seem a short period of time, my country changed a lot since I left. Or, indeed, my perception of it changed. The camera made me instinctively look at it from new perspectives and be interested in things I was not interested in before. People move from one place to another for different reasons but they can never escape their past. And why would they do that? Knowing your past is knowing your future.
The images are part of the project named ARRIVALS that shows Livia Lazar’s photographs from UK to Romania. Watch the entire photo-book on Blurb. More projects of Livia Lazar can be found on www.livialazar.org and on her Facebook Page.