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Geamana was once a peaceful picturesque village in a valley of Romania’s Apuseni branch of the Carpathian Mountains. Today, the village has almost entirely been engulfed in toxic copper waste laced with cyanide and other chemicals from the nearby Rosia Poieni copper mining pit.

Only the old church’s tower and a few houses preserve the memory of a village long ago erased from Romania’s official map. Soon enough, the tower and remaining houses will disappear under the toxic sludge, which, once entering rivers, could lead to catastrophic environmental consequences of transnational proportions, as, to this day, Romanian authorities have taken no measures to end the Geamana ecological disaster.

The beginning of the end started for Geamana in 1978, when the communist dictator Nicolae Ceasescu forced around 400 household owners to leave their homes, in order to make way for the toxic waste. The communist regime started exploiting the Rosia Poieni mine, containing the biggest copper reserves in Romania with an estimated one billion tons of cope ore, which at that time was also the largest one known in Europe. At it’s peak the mine was producing over 11,000 tons of copper a year, making it the biggest mine in Romania.

As a steady supply of acidic grey-and-red liquid filled Geamana’s valley following the mine’s opening, 20 villagers refused to leave and simply moved to higher ground.

The surrounding valley became a decantation basin, into which the contaminated waste could flow. Several other villages, apart from Geamana, were wiped out of existence as well. The decantation basin is currently over 130 hectares long, with over 27 million tons of waste deposited over the year.

The tailings contain a high quantity of pyrite. When exposed to oxidizing decomposition, it generates sulfuric acid and trivalent iron, which activate the leaching process of all the tailings in the dam. Many toxic substances have already infiltrated the groundwater in the region.

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