In European terms, Romania is rich in mineral potential, especially oil, gas, salt, gold and silver ores and non-ferrous metals. Historically, the Romanian mining industry has frequently been at the forefront of European development, often leading the way to the identification and evaluation of deposit types that have subsequently proved to be of major importance elsewhere.
In Romania varied ore deposits has been exploited from the earliest times, gold, copper, lead, zinc, manganese, iron and salt having been worked extensively. Archaeological evidence suggests that there has been mining in Romania for thousands of years, with artifacts from various ages having been shown to have been made from locally produced metals and minerals. Ore production became better organised during the Roman period, while simultaneously processing techniques became more diversified.
The earliest mineral working for which evidence exists was Palaeolithic flint and stone production, the sites of several “workshops” having been identified. Gold production commenced at Ciresata in the Brad district of the Apuseni Mountains during the Neolithic period (10,000-1,900 BC) both from hard-rock and alluvial deposits; salt was also produced at this time from the Moldova region, and possibly copper. Artifacts indicate that copper smelting and casting was practicised, and coloured ceramics from this period show that manganese was used as a pigment.
During the Bronze and early Iron Ages, gold and copper were produced in Transylvania, and in the Banat, Oltenia and Dobrudja districts. Gold production was also centred on the Metaliferi Mountains, in the Brad district and probably at Rosia Montana. Salt was produced through evaporation, and bronze, gold and iron production was widespread. Between 450 BC and 106 AD in the Geto-Dacic period, underground mining commenced for gold, other metals and for salt.
Large-scale quarries were opened for building stone, and metallurgical technology progressed, with the introduction of reducing furnaces for iron ore. Bronze, gold and silver metallurgy and manufacture also developed, the scale of gold production being indicated by the 165,000 kg of gold that were taken to Rome as spoils of war by the emperor Trajan. Mining activity increased during the Roman period with intensive working of deeper deposits as well. Lead production increased from iron and copper smelting, silver output was derived from non-ferrous ores and cinnabar was produced for use as a dye.
Existing centres of gold, silver and salt production included the Metaliferi and Poiana Rusca Mountains and the Banat district, and new centres appeared in the Rodna and Baia Mare district. Metal and salt mining continued after the Roman period, with new deposits being identified and worked and cast iron being produced for the first time. Between the 13th and 17th Centuries, new mining technologies were introduced, and water-powered stamps came into use for ore crushing. New deposits of copper, lead, zinc, iron and manganese were also found in the East Carpathians during this time, and towards the end of the period the first records of the country’s mining heritage were produced.
The second half of the 17th Century marked the appearance of the first institutions whose main goals were to organised, supervised (local offices, supervizing offices), and settled by mining activity (mining tribunals and courts of law). The first mining law came into force in 1854, being replaced in 1924 by a new law on the constitution of the unitary Romanian state. The industrialisation of the mining industry since the mid-19th Century included the introduction of modern explosives, mechanised drilling, and the use of electrical power underground. Between 1890 and 1896 California stamps, roll mills and ball mills were introduced for ore reduction, copper calcining commenced in 1876 and in 1917, Romania’s first cyanidation gold plan opened.
The last 150 years have seen the compilation of a huge amount of data about Romania’s mineral deposits and potential. All major areas of interest have been covered, including those of potential hydrocarbon interest. Reference must also be made to the large number of minerals that were first identified in Romanian deposits, including the element tellurium, which was discovered in gold ore at the Fata Baii ore deposit (Zlatna county) in the Metaliferi Mountains.
In the past, numerous deposits have been evaluated and have been either exhausted or abandoned on the criteria basis that do not apply in today’s economic environment. As yet, there has been little opportunity to re-evaluate such occurrences, although the country’s agencies responsible for exploration and development retain a massive amount of information on all aspects of deposit geology and resource estimations, obtained from past drilling programmes and thorough geological investigation.
Even in recent years, exploration by the state agencies has hampered by lack of resources, and there is thus excellent potential for overseas investment in both grassroots exploration and the re-appraisal of properties about which substantial amounts of data already exist.
Recent geological and geophysical work has shown that there are, in fact, many mineral prospects both near-surface and at depth that have considerable potential for further investigation, and that offer interesting opportunities for overseas investors interested in the country’s mineral resources.
The most productive mining centres with classical metalliferous ore deposits (containing gold, silver, lead, zinc, copper, iron and manganese) are located in Neogene volcanic zones in the Metaliferi and Oas-Gutai Mountains, and in the Banat region and in the Bihor massif related to Upper Cretaceous-Paleocene intrusive structures, as well as in the East and South Carpathians in the Poiana Rusca massif, or in Dobrogea, the latter related to Palaeozoic or older metamorphic rocks.
The significance of these zones, worked intensively since ancient times, is shown by the amount of metals (existing potential) estimated for some of the representative ore deposits.deposits.