A key figure of Romania's 1989 revolution, MEP Laszlo Tokes, resigned from his party on Monday over a controversial Canadian gold mine project in northwestern Romania. His stand centres on a particular method of extracting gold which uses cyanide to leach the precious metal from excavated material.
"As the initiator of a resolution from the European Parliament banning the use of cyanide in the mining industry, I cannot accept the attitude of my party towards the mining investment in Rosia Montana" (northwestern Romania), Tokes said in a press release.
Tokes accused the Hungarian minority UDMR party of supporting plans by Canadian firm Gabriel Resources to use up to 12,000 tons of cyanide a year to extract 300 tonnes of gold in operations at the village of Rosia Montana, in the heart of Transylvania.
The project has been criticised by environmentalists, archaeologists and non-governmental organisations fighting corruption but it has the support of Romanian president Traian Basescu.
The minister of Culture, Kelemen Hunor, a member of the UDMR party has given a green light to the project which still needs a go-ahead from the Environment minister, Laszlo Borbely, also a member of the Hungarian minority party.
In an interview with daily newspaper Adevarul on Monday, Borbely said that an environmental impact assessment was at an "advanced stage" but that some "technical issues still had to be clarified".
"It has become more and more embarrassing for me to answer the questions of my MEP colleagues who are worried about what is happening in Romania...", Tokes said in his press release.
He also attacked what he alleged were attempts by some UDMR lawmakers to "sabotage the activities of the anti-corruption agency and prosecutors".
Tokes, an ethnic Hungarian protestant pastor, is seen as the catalyst of the "Romanian revolution" which led to the fall of Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in December 1989.
On December 15, hundreds of parishioners had rallied in Timisoara (west) to prevent him from being evicted by the communist authorities, following his sermons critical of the regime.