ZURICH – Canada’s Gabriel Resources said on Thursday its gold project in Romania will not cause environmental damage, but will reduce existing pollution and bring work to an area with high unemployment rates. Oyvind Hushovd, Gabriel’s chairman and chief executive officer, told Reuters on the sidelines of Denver Gold’s annual European Gold Forum that a lot of the «noise» surrounding the Rosia Montana project was fiction, but said there were some issues. Mining in the area dates back to Roman times and has continued ever since, creating a vast underground network of tunnels which are seeping pollution into the surrounding mine area, which eventually makes its way into the Danube River. «We are going to remove a major pollution point in Europe,» Hushovd said, explaining that Gabriel’s mining project would effectively get rid of the mountain containing the tunnels. The firm said at the end of last year that it hoped to submit its environmental impact assessment in the first quarter of 2004, but Hushovd said this would be delayed, mainly due to changing mining legislation in Romania. Gold extraction at Rosia Montana requires thousands of villagers to relocate to make way for drilling sites at what would be Europe’s largest open-cast mine, with a potential for churning out 500,000 ounces annually. Hushovd said relocation was continuing very slowly as property records had not been updated for a long time, making verification of ownership titles difficult. He expected the process to finish by the end of the year. The project has also come under fire from ecologists, rights groups and historians who fear damage to nearby archaeological sites. Gabriel said it had undertaken a major archaeological program over the past seven years and has now cleared 80 percent of all land, with the remainder due to take another two years. He added that the unemployment rate in Rosia Montana was close to 60 percent.