Communication exercise: RMGC and “Let’s Save Rosia Montana” (SRM)
At this specific moment (date and time) when I started writing this analysis, the petition “Let’s Save Rosia Montana” has been signed by 45984 people. Unlike this one, the petition “Save the virgin forests” initiated by WWF gathered in about 2 months 10.0000 signatures. Today, 06.12.2011, they proudly announced that on 12.12.2011 the protocol for the protection of virgin forests in Romania will be signed in partnership with the Ministry of Environment. It is estimated that these forests take up about 250,000 ha. Naturally, I ask myself the following question, how is it possible that the protest to save Rosia Montana against a project that will take place on about 1.500 ha (containing archaeological remains) and with a much higher stake than that of the virgin forests has collected less than half of the signatures needed to save the forests. What is more, the Minister of the Environment, Mr Laszlo Borbely, the one who signed the protocol for the protection of virgin forests, suggests that the RMGC project will receive the environmental permit!?
What does the protest group, gathered around “Let’s save Rosia Montana”, do?
Flash mobs, street rallies and protests, signature gatherings, online petitions, events like Fan Fest, articles and protests on blogs, Facebook, photobombing, “ecoterrorism” and so on. In addition, the Babeș Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca and other professionals and entities in the scientific, social field, etc. managed to get involved (Andrei Marga, rector of the Babeș-Bolyai University, Ionel Haiduc, President of the Romanian Academy, Sergiu Nistor, president of ICOMOS Romania) in order to bring solid arguments against exploitation. The first step towards a serious approach to protest, the text can be found here: https://voxpublica.realitatea.net/politica-societate/proiectul-de-la-rosia-montana-trebuie-oprit-rezolutie-comuna-ubb-academia-romana-icomos-romania-si-imbratisari-pentru-rosia-montana-foto-69982.html. They have also brought counter-arguments through the Analysis report on the Amendment of the Mining Law, see here: https://ngo.ro/img_upload/4ef160f5484c05ea6c665d19f7a161d3/Raport_de_Analiza.pdf. The online petition “Let’s Save Rosia Montana” was signed by 45.984 people.
Figures and calculations
The figures presented in this material are from today, 06.12.2011, and they are slightly rounded up or down to avoid too many decimals. The price of gold and silver are obtained from international quotations. The estimates are based on the quantities declared by RMGC. All figures and information are from public, verifiable sources. What matters is the volume and size (the order of magnitude) of the numbers.
It is said that 3500 jobs will be created, 314 tons of gold and 1480 tons of silver will be extracted, and approximately 4 billion dollars will enter the Romanian economy. From this amount, 1.8 billion dollars will go directly to the state budget. The remaining 2.2 billion dollars represent money that will be spent in Romania on the salaries of Romanian employees, different constructions, electricity, materials, transportation, reagents, spare parts and many more.
1g of gold = 55 USD
1g of silver = 1018 USD
RMGC shareholders: Minvest Deva – 19.31% and Gabriel Resources – 80.69%
According to RMGC there will be extracted:
314 tons of gold. Which means 314t x 1,000kg / t x 1,000g / kg x 55 USD / g = 17,270,000,000 USD. This means 17.3 Billion USD.
1480 tons of silver. Which means 1480t x 1,000kg / t x 1,000g / kg x 1,018 USD / g = 1,506,000,000 USD. This means 1.5 Billion USD.
Total (estimated) revenue: 17.27 + 1.506 = 18.8 billion USD.
Not knowing the profit rate estimated by RMGC, we can only assume the percentage of distributed revenues: Minvest Deva – by 19.31% = 3.625 Billion USD, Gabriel Resources – by 80.69% = 15.151 Billion USD.
From certain well-documented sources from abroad it appears that in general the mining operations of gold extraction and trading bring a profit of up to 100% for the total duration of the exploitation.
There is also a second category of income, with the related profits, resulting from the stock market of Gabriel Resources (the main shareholder of RMGC), incomes to which the Romanian state does not have access and which are difficult to estimate. There are rumours that say that the public “outings” of certain political figures in Romania (who make public statements in favour of the exploitation) happen, in fact, in order to raise stock market optimism and as a consequence of the share’s rate.
The third category of revenue, still unverifiable and based only on rumours, is that of other rare and strategic metals and substances that RMGC may find during operation and which are allegedly attributed to RMGC’s entire secret contract.
RMGC says that 4 billion USD will enter the Romanian economy through salaries and expenses incurred, that means that for an 11-year period of operations there will be 0.03 billion USD/month. This means 30.303 million USD/month.
RMGC’s communication expenses have been over 7 million euros only in the first nine months of 2011, according to RMGC’s own statements.
I just want to show you the financial and mediatic scale of the problem, which actually betrays the major interest of RMGC. This suggests that despite these huge expenses that are being made, in a few years, if the project is approved, the business will be profitable. When I say profitable, I think of significant percentages, not of a normal business at EU level, which means 5-6%.
What do both “enemies” do wrong in their communication strategies?
Betting on people’s emotions.
The main pillar of public communication is focusing on the emotion, using the “desperate cries for help” from the poor people in the Rosia Montana area, regarding the lack of economic future, the lack of jobs, the migration of young people in the absence of any future, the hard life, etc.
Result: At some point, if it hasn’t already happened, people start to get fed up with pity and will say, either: 1. “Well, go work something, anything and stop complaining so much”, or 2. “there are many other mountain areas in Romania and not only, just as poor, or poorer, why don’t those people complain about it on TV !?”; “Life is hard in most mountainous areas, where there is no possibility of agriculture, except, possibly, raising animals, exploitation of timber and cultivating mushrooms/berries. Maybe even tourism could have a chance if the area is of natural, archaeological, historical, etc. interest”.
Presentation of the economic advantage.
Another pillar of communication is the economic advantage offered by the Project, supported by the figures that were made public.
Result: What belongs to the state, even at first glance, doesn’t seem to be a huge sum of money. In fact, we are talking about 30.3 million USD/month, according to the above calculations. In Romania’s case, having in mind the type of country it is, this sum of money is insignificant. The total amount of the state’s direct revenues is in fact 1.8 billion USD, over 11 years, which means 13.636 million USD/month. The remaining amount, up to 4 billion dollars, represents money spent with hiring suppliers, labour, etc. This means money that is being “pumped” into the economy. Today, it seems that the Boc Government is borrowing about 1 billion euros (not USD) per month to support certain state spending.
Specific data: 3,500 new jobs.
Result: Modern mining involves specialized people. However, the elderly and people over 40, presented in the RMGC commercials are not and will never be miners. At most, they will be hired as carriers (to use wheelbarrows) because they do not have any specialization and they will not be able to have one. At most, a number of young people in the area will eventually be able to be employed by RMGC, only if they are (re)trained professionally.
RMGC partners with well-known sports clubs, CFR and U Mobitelco, and they sponsor sports competitions and cultural events.
Result: CFR has between 3000 and 4000 fans, U Mobitelco about as many. The U Mobitelco fan panel consists of ultras from the Universitatea (football) club, fans of local basketball who are over 30 years old; implicitly many of them have families and children. Some of these fans can be found at the “cool” events in Cluj and Transylvania, and they are partly sponsored by RMGC. An example of such events is the concerts of Al Di Meola in Cluj-Napoca (where an entire hall repeatedly booed the name of RMGC when it was presented as a sponsor). CFR fans have already protested against the club’s decision to be sponsored by RMGC. The football team’s fans protested and threatened to boycott. Those over 30, with families and children, think viscerally – informed or uninformed – about the “cyanide” future of themselves and their children.
The declaration of the mono-industrial zone.
Result: Of course, it was not RMGC who did this, but the local forums, but the rumours accusing the RMGC lobby are quite strong.
The contract with the Romanian state is not made public.
Result: the suspicion of hiding clauses to the detriment of the state, as the previous Bechtel and Nokia cases already exist in public opinion
“Let’s Save Rosia Montana” project (SRM)
Lack of substantial funds
This is represented by the “cheap” communication strategies – without a budget or with a tiny budget – unlike their enemy RMGC who throws millions of euros into the battle and its allies, openly or subtly, with influential people, organizations and companies.
Like Fân Fest, “weird”, “post-hippie” and poorly managed so that they generate contradictory opinions due to what is said it is going to happen: drunkenness, drugs, littering the area and so on.
Lack of real alternative offer
The RMGC opposition did not come up with a loud, specific and intensely communicated project that would offer viable and real alternative solutions to what RMGC says it will do to improve people’s lives. That’s right, the state should have done it.
The fragmentation of actions and the lack of central coordination
“Let’s Save Rosia Montana” performs various and different actions, in only a few fields which leads to a lower awareness due to the fragmentation of perception. Also, the messages are not coherent enough and there are way too many of them which are left to be managed by several, different groups, without general central coordination, as RMGC does.
1. RMGC focused mainly on “emotional” messages: poor, disadvantaged areas, people who do not have an income or a job, hard life, the departure of young people from the area. Emotions come and go, the call to pity and compassion some people can easily turn into ignorance and contempt for “beggars”. SRM does not capitalize at all here.
2. RMGC has doubled the emotional messages with messages/promises of growth and economic prosperity in the future. All these data and figures are relatively quantifiable, verifiable and relatively easy to counteract by SRM. They can also be reduced to their essence: how much the state earns and for how many years, compared to how much Gabriel Resources earns, compared to the environmental, social and historical implications.
3. RMGC sponsored cultural and sports entities and events which addressed a larger audience, as well as an audience interested in sports. The logic was not good in this case, because, especially when we are talking about an educated audience: they are more informed, they have a family with children and they look different to the future, not just strictly through money’s perspective. SRM often acts like a gang of kids, thus managing not to attract its mature and rational target.
4. From the actions of some public persons and institutions, it can be deduced that RMGC carries out an intense lobbying activity at high levels. The deduction is easy to do only by reading the press offline and online. Logically, this thing denotes, in the minds of citizens, that there might be great interests that are not at all visible together with underground practices. SRM could have lobbied intensively to declassify the contract.
5. From the public sources investigated, it can be deduced that RMGC carries out an intense online campaign to counteract the opinions of bloggers and online active people who post articles and comments against RMGC. SRM could have tried to attract well-known, professional people who are very vocal and strong supporters, more than it currently does.
6. Regardless of the actions of the two “enemies”, we must take into account the general condition of Romanian citizens who show a lack of initiative, action and support for their opinions. If Save the Virgin Forests in Romania gathered 100.000 petitioners, it is because people were only asked to fill out an online form, while SRM involves mass action, physical action, not a simple click behind a computer screen.
7. SRM could have had absolutely remarkable success if it had submitted to the legislature a petition in accordance with the law – not online – signed by at least 100.000 citizens, if not more.