Geamana is an abandoned village in Romania. It was a very nice and happy village up until 1978, when the Communist regime forced residents to leave their homes and make way for the toxic waste from a nearby mining pit.
Everything started in 1977, when dictator Nicolae Ceausescu decided to exploit a huge copper deposit from the underground. In only one year, the work started and everybody from Geamana was evacuated.
The nearby copper pit of Rosia Poieni in the Apuseni Mountains is still the largest copper reserve in Romania, producing around 11,000 tonnes of copper a year in its prime, but the exploitation is stopped for now. However, the mine also produced a lot of toxic waste, which has to be stored somewhere. The Geamana village was sacrificed for this purpose.
Some 400 families were evacuated and their village was replaced by an artificial lake, serving as a kind of catch-basin for the mine’s contaminated sludge to flow into. As the exploitation continued, the lake grew more and more, gulping up what used to be a village, creating the surreal landscape we see today. The acidic lake contains cyanide which is used in the extraction process. The church and a few houses is all that remains today.
Many of the villagers thought they will get rich, as the government promised. They were supposed to be relocated in a new village, 7 km from Geamana. But they were relocated over 100 km away, receiving just land and small amounts of money.
Out of the 1000 people who once inhabited the area, 20 still live around the toxic waste. Their houses just happened to be higher up the hill – destiny placed them there, locals say. Locals are also extremely upset because even though they promised, authorities didn’t relocate the village’s graves, which are still around the flooded church.
“First time, I came here to work as a postman. But after this happened, I realized that no one here needs a postman anymore”, said Cornel Pop, a local.
Sadly, history might repeat itself. Another mining project is planned in the area. Romanian society has been very vocal against this project, fearing another environmental and social disaster and for good reason – the Romanian government has proven time and time again that they are incapable of maintaining a high environmental standard; corruption is running rampant through the country’s leadership, and people are aware of this. They don’t want another Geamana happening.
Meanwhile, like a bloody bride, this beautiful landscape serves as a warning. Underground resources can come at a great cost – a cost that we will also have to account for.
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