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New York-Based Romanians Have A Bone To Pick With John Paulson

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What they lack in numbers they make up for in signage, flyers, and to the point demands ("GTFO"...of your investment in a company that wants to mine gold in a Romanian village).

On a blustery Sunday in November, the wind tore down East 86th Street from the hills of Central Park, whipping leaves and debris around a handful of protestors gathered in front of the 28,500-square-foot townhouse of hedge fund billionaire John Paulson, one of America’s wealthiest men and biggest gold investors. Silvia Pena, 32, a tall, big-eyed beauty from Bucharest who came to New York from Romania three years ago to attend the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, held a giant poster board aloft. It bore photographs of a pensive Paulson, a verdant Romanian valley, the moon-faced landscape of an open-pit gold mine, and a scowling stick figure with one arm pointing fiercely off the page, “GTFO” scrawled in red block letters beneath it. “Get the fuck out,” Silvia explained with a curled smile and a wink in her eye. Silvia and a coterie of Romanian ex-pats were assembling in front of Paulson's home for the seventh Sunday in a row to demand that the billionaire withdraw his investment from Gabriel Resources. The Canadian company has been trying for fourteen years to get the Romanian government to green-light its development of Europe’s largest open-pit gold mine in a picturesque and historic town called Rosia Montana. (Hundreds of lawsuits from NGOs over the years have held it up.) Paulson drew the protestors’ ire because he is the biggest financial backer of Gabriel, with a 16 percent stake...A poor agricultural town in northwestern Romania where gold mining dates back to the Roman empire, Rosia Montana has been proposed for designation as a UNESCO world heritage site owing to the underground mining galleries tucked into its craggy hillsides. To develop the $20 billion mine, Gabriel Resources would need to relocate 974 families, dynamite four mountains, and create a giant cyanide lake — posing a clear threat to local air, water, soil, and way of life. The Romanian government, which owns a 19 percent stake in the mine and is widely considered one of the most corrupt in the European Union, recently sacked the head of its geological institute after he expressed opposition to the mine. A cyanide spill in 2000 at a similar mine in Baia Mare, just north of Rosia Montana, has been described as the biggest environmental disaster in Europe after Chernobyl...

A little after midday, a flier war began. The guard wearing shades emerged from Paulson’s residence carrying a stack of papers. He and his colleague politely offered a handout to anyone who accepted one from the protestors. “Plundering and Pillaging a Country’s Natural Resources is Not Investing!” cried the flyer distributed by the protestors. “The Facts: Rosia Montana — Enormous Economic Benefits, Environmental Remediation and World Class Safety,” countered the Paulson document. As the afternoon crept on, another minor skirmish broke out: Cameras were raised high, held against the wind, and pointed like weapons, each side snapping multiple pictures of the other, an attempt to catalogue identities, intimidate.

Every Sunday, There's a Protest Outside Billionaire John Paulson's Enormous Townhouse [Daily Intel]


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