History of Gold Mining in Apuseni Mountains

Project title: History of Gold Mining in Apuseni Mountains

Project type: Exploratory Research Project financed by UEFISCDI

Project code: PN-III-P4-ID-PCE-2016-0874

Contract No.: 150/2017

Implementation period: 2017-2019

Budget: 848,700.00 RON

This research proposal is an innovation both in what regards the method(s) and the topic, with impact on socio-economic and cultural development of the area under scrutiny and of the entire Romanian society. Talking the issue of gold mining in the Apuseni Mountains is extremely salient for the nowadays Romania, due to virulent debate raised by the emergence of the ecologic – and not only – question launched by the prospective cyanide gold extraction by Gold Corporation at Roșia Montană which started in 1996 and ended in 2015, succeeding the massive street protests in Romanian main cities.

The project covers both a wider time-line and space in order to (re)construct a complete image of the gold mining craftsmanship across history. The intention is to focus on and to bring attention upon a fragile type of cultural heritage, both material and immaterial, that is the history of a craftsmanship and its representations in the longue durée, from the ancient times to the 21st century. It will focus as well on collecting oral history testimonies in the Apuseni Mountains area, in the so-called “golden quadrilateral”. The main objectives of the project are: to (re)construct miners’ lived history and the history of gold exploitation in the Apuseni Mountains through life stories and interpretation of past artefacts; to investigate traditional crafts, to scrutinize the economic survival strategies of miners families/communities, by highlighting continuity/discontinuities throughout history; exploring the link between the traditional occupation of mining and resistance in the sense of biography, exploring the link between the traditional occupation of mining and resistance in the sense of biography, memory and identity, the development of narratives and different representations within the community memory. The project aims at connecting the research on history the gold mining across different époques to recent analytical key instruments employed by recent historiography: (im)material cultural heritage, gender roles in practicing the profession/craftsmanship as well as in miners’ communities, the relationship between different centres and periphery, modernization, minorities, environment and landscape, resistance, and migration.

Project team:

Director: Prof. Univ. Dr. Doru Radosav

CS II Dr. Lavinia Snejana Costea

Conf. Univ. Dr. Ionuţ Costea

Conf. Univ. Dr. Valentin Orga

Lect. Dr. Liliana Mateescu-Suciu

Dr. Luminiţa Ignat-Coman

Dr. Adrian Boda

Dr. Ionela Bogdan

Drd. Ioana Ursu

Dr. Diana Nistor

Drd. Călin Olariu

Project Management

In terms of project management, the work-plan provided in the grant application was fulfilled. Here are some of the results: administrative documents, staff recruitment, team meetings and several acquisitions necessary for the good implementation of the project.

Information and publicity

Information on the implementation of the project was accomplished by organizing an International Conference "(Un)Told Stories in Central and Eastern Europe. Oral History since 1990" (Cluj-Napoca, 24-25 November 2017) when CSII Dr. Lavinia Costea presented the outline and aims of the ongoing project at the Oral History Institute in Cluj-Napoca. The project was presented during a round table organized at the Baia Mare County Library on October 27, 2017, attended by two members of the team: Dr. Adrian Boda and C.S.II Dr. Lavinia Costea.

The research project was presented by C.S.II Lavinia Costea and Conf. Univ. Dr. Ionuţ Costea at the conference „Memorie şi colecţii ale memoriei: Noi perspective asupra comunismului în România” which took place in Sibu (01.11.2018-03.11.2018). Furthermore, three other members of the implementation team, Dr. Luminiţa Ignat-Coman, Drd. Călin Olariu,  Drd. Ionela Bogdan, gave presentations on their specific research topics within the project.


Documentation and theoretical research focused on three main directions: to accomplish a bibliographic repertoire on gold mining in Transylvania, to undergo research within libraries and archives in the country and abroad, and to identify memory policies promoted worldwide regarding gold mining. The bibliographic researches have resulted in a bibliographic repertoire, which includes over 600 titles of books, articles and periodicals on the issue of gold mining in Transylvania and worldwide. The activity of documentation outlined the most representative works on the history of gold mining in the Apuseni Mountains and to the oral history methodology (emphasizing the manner in which it will be used within the mining communities). For each era, the project benefited from the expertise of a specialist who contributed to the general history of gold mining: for the ancient period Lect. Dr. Liliana Mateescu Suciu, for the medieval period Conf. Dr. Ionuţ Costea and Prof. Dr. Doru Radosav, for the modern age Dr. Luminiţa Ignat-Coman, and for the contemporary period Drd. Ioana Ursu, Drd. Ionela Bogdan, Drd. Diana Nistor, Drd. Călin Olariu, Dr. Adrian Boda and CSII Dr. Lavinia Costea.

The second research direction, the documentation in libraries and archives both in Romania and abroad, consisted in carrying out archival documentation work at the Alba county branch of the Romanian National Archives and at the Archives of the National Bank of Romania as well as research at Lucian Blaga Central University in Cluj Napoca. Particularly promising are the primary sources identified in the archive of the National Bank of Romania, which provide information regarding the evolution of gold mining operations, the social-economic situation as well as on gold smuggling in the Apuseni area, from the perspective of a central institution of the Romanian state which had a key role in managing the exploitation, processing and commercialization of precious metals in Romania. As of now the following archival material was consulted:

File no.1/1929-1947 2. File no.2/1929-1940 3.  File no.3/ 1929-1947 4. File no.14/ 1929-1948 5. File no.15/1929-1948 6. File no.11/1930-1943 7. File no.2/1932-1945 8. File no.16/1932-1938 9. File no.10/1939-194 10. File no.2/1933-1940 11.  File no.11/1935-1939 12.  File no.28/1934-1935 13.  File no.23/1945-1948 14.  File no.36/1938-1947 15.  File no.70/1938-1939 16.  File no.94/1938 17.  File no.13/1934-1947 18.  File no. 1/1940-1942 19.  File no. 6/1941-1948 20.  File no. 50/1948-1951 21.  File no. 4/1941-1949 22.  File no. 9/1944-1947 23.  File no. 7/1941-1946 24.  File no. 18/1947-1949 25.  File no. 15/1946-1951 26.  File no. 92/1948 27.  File no. 40/1949 28.  File no. 35/1945-1948 29.  File no. 13/1934-1947

The project team conducted research activities abroad at the British Library, London, UK, at the University Library of Freiburg, Germany, the National Library of Austria, the Museum of Natural Sciences and the Vienna Museum of Technology, in Austria. In Vienna we conducted an analysis on the politics of memory promoted by the Austrian state, which underline the inheritance of gold mining in Transylvania by presenting an exhibit with gold nuggets retrieved from the Roşia Montană mining exploitation. Research activities were also carried out at Central European University Library between 18th and 25th of August 2019, focusing primarily on secondary research literature as well as case studies on the gold mining in the Apuseni Mountains during the modern period.

Oral History Field Research

In regard to the field research aspects, the preliminary documentation was finalized. Thus, an interview guide and documents regarding copy rights were elaborated.  In addition, a map of the area was made in order to identify the localities whose inhabitants were involved one way or another in the process of gold mining in the Apuseni Mountains.

A first field work campaign, with members of the project team was conducted from 10th to 12th of November 2017, in Brad, Hunedoara County, where we managed to record seven oral history interviews, with key gold miners of that area.

A second field work campaign was conducted from 23rd to the 29th of April 2018, in Brad, Hunedoara County and neighboring villages, during which the implementation team conducted 45 oral history interviews.

A third field work campaign was conducted from 16th to the 21st of October 2018, in Bucium, Alba County, during which the research team conducted 32 oral history interviews.

A forth field work campaign was conducted from 19th to the 23rd of November  2018, during which time the members of the research team went to Abrud, Alba County, and Bucium, Roşia Montană and Ciuruleasa villages, where 21 oral history interviews were conducted. Up to now 105 oral history interviews were conducted.  

In 2019 the research team conducted three field work campaigns. The first campaign took place between 22.03.2019-24.03.2019 in Almașu Mare and Techereu, Alba County. The second and the third campaigns took place between 25.03.2019-28.03.2019 and 27.05.2019-01.06.2019 in: Brad, Valea Bradului, Vălişoara, Voia, Luncoiu de Sus, Luncoiu de Jos, Dealu Mare, Podele, Dudeşti, Stejărel, Crişcior, Curechiu, Zdrapţi, Rovina, Merişor, Șesuri, Hunedoara County. In 2019, the research team conducted 132 oral history interviews.  

Up to now 245 oral history interviews were conducted.Throughout the interviews, several aspects were tackled such as: the biographies of those interviewed and the manner in which their testimonies may intersect with events pertaining the "great history", the mining exploitation during the interwar period and the Second World War, the changes brought by the communist regime, the closure of the mines after 1989. In addition to these interviews, other witnesses from the towns of Brad and Abrud and respective neighboring localities were identified and they will be interviewed throughout the following field campaigns.