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Romanian gold mine commission delays report to next week

BUCHAREST, Oct 17 (Reuters) - A Romanian parliamentary commission has delayed by a few days a report on a controversial bill intended to allow Canada's Gabriel Resources Ltd to set up Europe's biggest open-cast gold mine.

Gabriel Resources Ltd has been waiting 14 years for approval to use cyanide to mine 314 tonnes of gold and 1,500 tonnes of silver in the town of Rosia Montana. The state also holds a minority stake in the mine.

The government of Prime Minister Victor Ponta this year proposed a bill to speed up the project by setting strict deadlines for the approval process.

But the bill triggered countrywide protests against the mine, with thousands of Romanians staging weekly protests in the capital Bucharest and elsewhere.

In September, parliament set up a commission to assess the bill and told it to report by Oct. 20. Now, members of that commission say their report will not be issued before the middle of next week.

"There are two or three articles that need a final vote ... which will probably happen in the middle of next week," said Attila Korodi, a member of the commission.

"The bill has been changed so that ... the law now applies to all metal mining projects, not just to Rosia Montana. All the provisions would still be applicable to the project."

Once the commission issues its opinion, the bill will go before other parliamentary committees before being put to a vote in both the Senate and the lower house.

One of the bill's provisions would grant the mine "national interest" status, which would make it easier for the company to expropriate the few locals who oppose the plan, something critics say is unconstitutional.