In Canada, Environmental impact, Turkey / Türkiye

Canadian gold mining company allegedly complicit in destruction of Turkish environment

Turkish environmentalists were outraged when their government opened up a gold-mining operation in Ida Mountains, one of Turkey’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty, destroying nearly 200,000 trees with other disastrous environmental impacts. What they didn’t know, until quite recently, is that the operation is mounted by a Canadian mining company called Alamos Gold.

This has remained shrouded in secrecy, partly owing to the internet sources providing the information being blocked by Turkish censors.

But now the facts out in the open, Canadian extractive capitalists have dealt cuddly Canada’s international image yet another severe knock.

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Environmental groups to protest gold mine in north-west Turkey

Water and conscience

Canadian mining company Alamos Gold is planning to mine gold in Kaz Mountains (or Mount Ida, as mentioned in Homer’s Iliad) using cyanide, a toxic substance that can be deadly in case of spills or leaks. A reported 20,000 tonnes of cyanide will be used in the mine. This is already devastating the natural environment and the toxic effects of the processes used is putting life at risk.

Published on Ahval, July 30, 2019
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Ecological activists and environmental groups have launched a campaign against the construction of a gold mine to be run by Canada-based intermediate gold producer Alamos Gold in Turkey’s north-western Çanakkale province.

Grassroots environment activist group Kazdağları Kardeşliği (“Kaz Mountains Fraternity”) is launching a “Water Watch” demonstration in Kirazlı, the mine site where over 195,000 trees have been felled for the project, quadrupling the foreseen number in the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (ÇED).

Çanakkale City Council also supports the Water Watch. The demonstration will start on August 1, with activists camping out in the construction site.

Support demonstrations have been announced by activist groups in Istanbul as well, with chambers under the Union of Turkish Chambers of Engineers and Architects (TMMOB), pro-Kurdish left-wing group Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK) and grassroots activist groups including Northern Forests Defence issuing calls for action for a demonstration on July 31 in Istanbul.

Alamos Gold is planning to mine gold in Kaz Mountains (or Mount Ida, as mentioned in Homer’s Iliad) using cyanide, a toxic substance that can be deadly in case of spills or leaks. A reported 20,000 tonnes of cyanide will be used in the mine.

Kaz Mountains Fraternity said the gold mine is bound to damage one of the most significant biodiversity hotspots in Turkey. The drainage basin of the Atikhisar Dam, the only source of potable water in Çanakkale, will be directly affected by the mining process. The whole city runs the risk of losing the one water supply in case of accidents.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) Çanakkale MP Özgür Ceylan said the company was given a licence without regard to the earthquake-prone nature of the area.

A petition started by the Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion for Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitats (TEMA) has, at the time of publication, over 140,000 signatures.

Hashtags used to promote the Water Watch, #KazDağlarıHepimizin and #SuNöbeti, have amassed over 150,000 tweets.

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Thousands of Trees Cut in Mount Ida for Gold Mine, People on the Watch

In an attempt to limit the negative press, the Turkish Ministry of Forestry and Agriculture released a statement about the trees cut down in the Mount Ida, saying that 13,000 trees have been cut down, not 195,000 as previously alleged and other issues regarding the environmental catastrophe. The protestors ask of the ministry: do you think we’re stupid?

Published on Bianet, July, 29,2019

Click to read the article in Turkish / Kurdish
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After the images showing the trees cut down in Mount Ida in Çanakkale for the Kirazlı Gold Mine Project were shared on social media and sparked public outrage, the local community and environmental activists have announced that they are standing a “water watch” in the region.

While a call has been made on social media to the camping and watch area near the mineral exploration site in Kirazlı Village, the Municipality of Çanakkale has indicated that they will aid the ones who will keep watch.

The Directorate General of Forestry of the Ministry of Forestry and Agriculture has also released a statement entitled “The False Facts About Çanakkale Kirazlı Mine Site” and announced the number of trees cut down for the project as 13 thousand 400.

Indicating that the allegation of “Mount Ida is being destroyed” as a result of cyanide gold exploration near Atikhisar Dam water basin does not reflect the truth, the Directorate has further claimed that the mine site in question is 40 kilometers away from the Ida Mountains.

‘No cyanide is used in exploring or extracting gold’

The Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources has also released a statement later in the day and announced that the gold exploration works are continuing at Kirazlı Balaban Hill, which is 40 kilometers away from the Ida Mountains. The Ministry has also stated that contrary to allegations, no cyanide is used while exploring or extracting gold in the region.

“The allegation that the water demand of the Kirazı Gold and Silver Mine will be met from Atikhisar Dam is completely unreal”, the Ministry has said.

Regarding the trees cut down for the mine project, the Ministry has stated, “As per the related regulation, the company that engages in the mining activities in question has planted 14 thousand trees by forming two memorial forests. The number of trees that have been cut down in the region is 13 thousand 400, not 195 thousand as alleged.”

Özoğuz: This nature belongs to us all

Musician Gökhan Özoğuz posted the following tweet under the hashtag #KazDaglarinaDokunma (Don’t touch Ida Mountains):

In no parts of the country will we allow an action that will harm the ecosystem of nature near living space of humans. Nature belongs to us all.

Actor Şahan Gökbakar has also shared a message on his Instagram account and said, “The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry made a statement… It said, ‘Yes, the trees have been destroyed, but we cut 13 thousand trees, not 195 thousand of them. And moreover, it is not the Ida Mountains, it is 40 kilometers away from there.

My questions to the Ministry: Are we stupid?

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Tarım ve Orman Bakanlığı açıklama yapmış.. Demişki evet ağaçlar katledildi AMA 195bin değil 13bin ağaçcık kestik canıııım..Hee ayrica da Kaz dağları degil orası 40km uzağı… BAKANLIĞA sorularım: Biz salak mıyız?? Goz goruyor bakin bakalim kac agac kesilmiş?? Kaz daglari ve etrafi kac km² su kaynaklarina sahip?? İstanbula su kac km oteden geliyor??? Yahu o bolgede ki koylere su tasiyan nehirler ve kaynaklar kac km oteden geliyor??? 40 km Kaz Daglari ve su kaynaklari icin, ev ile bakkala olan uzaklik gibi denilebilir… Yani acikcasi bu açıklamayı yapan ve bunu açıklama diye veren zihniyet iste sorun. Açıklama degil itiraf olmuş.. ACİLEN BU KANADALI ŞİRKET DEFOLUP GİTSİN BURDAN…Kanada’da ormanda birak siyanürle altinı, mangal yaktirmazlar beee!!! BUNU ONAYLAYAN VE İZİN VEREN TUM KİSİLERDEN DE HESAP SORULSUN!!! #kazdağlarıhepimizin #kazdağları #aşk #vatan

A post shared by Şahan Gökbakar (@sahangokbakar) on

The Municipality of Artvin province has also posted a message on its Twitter account under the hashtag #KazdağlarıHepimizin (Ida Mountains belong to us all) and stated the following:

“The Mount Ida is not a place to explore mines, it is a place to get oxygen. It is a blessing! It is a spring of life! It is Ida, it is Sarıkız, it is Olimpos.” (HA/SD)

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‘Only the Judiciary can Stop the Miners in Ida Mountains’

Speaking to bianet, Çanakkale Mayor Ülgür Gökhan has said, “In addition to Kirazlı, there are 26 other mining licenses granted in the region so far. When these are eventually converted to operating licences one day, they will also destroy the forests.”

By Hikmet Adam

Published on Bianet, August 2, 2019

Click to read the article in Turkish
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A destruction of trees is taking place in Kirazlı Village in Çanakkale due to the gold mine activities of the Canada-based Alamos Gold company.

While the people launch social media campaigns to call for an end to the company, environmental activists are standing a watch in the mining site.

What is the background?

In early 2000s, the General Directorate of Mineral Research and Exploration (MTA) and the Ministry of Energy explored and mapped the mineral deposits in the region. The Law on Mines was amended after 2002 and mine exploration licenses were granted to companies.

When the calendars hit 2010s, the mine exploration licenses were converted to operating licenses. Enterprises started to be established after 2017. People raised their concerns over the destruction of trees in that period as well and organized protest demonstrations.

Gökhan: They have gained pace after local elections

We have spoken with the Çanakkale Provincial Mayor Ülgür Gökhan about the developments unfolding in Kirazlı over the last two weeks and the trees cut down for the gold mine project:

In 2017, trees started to be cut down for the roads that would connect to the mine. They cut the trees in brooks. We got involved in them all. We even had the Environmental Impact Assessment reports cancelled. But, they received a new report and continued with that. We filed a lawsuit again, but they continued cutting down the trees without waiting for the court verdict. They have gained pace in the post-election period, after the March 31 local elections. The permission has been given, the licence has been granted and they have torn everything apart there at full pace.

‘They took action before court verdicts were finalized’

While our struggle against the mine was going on, they took action before the court verdicts were finalized. And no one told them to stop. We reported them, but no one showed any action whatsoever. And we decided to protest when the plunder grew. We are still keeping our ‘water watch’.

‘2,000-decare forest area has been cut down’

The area cut down here is 2,000 decares. In other words, 2 million square meters. I would like to ask the following to the ones who allege that 13 thousand trees have been cut down: Please, make a calculation. How many trees can fit in 100 square meters? It is a forest.

‘They only count commercial trees’

They are conducting a perception operation. They are counting trees above a certain diameter. But, there are also smaller-scale trees that can be made use of. It really is a massacre. They are misinforming. And they are receiving it from the Regional Directorate of Forestry. As the Regional Directorate of Forestry considers these trees commercial trees, it says 13 thousand. But the calculation is obvious. They have cut down an area of 2,000 decares. They continue cutting down trees. They continue committing a crime without listening to anyone. And we continue protesting.

‘The situation is really heartbreaking’

We filed a lawsuit for the cancellation of the licence. But nothing has come of it yet. Just two days ago, we filed two other lawsuits. Because there is no one that can stop them except for the judiciary. Neither the Ministries, nor the Presidency takes any heed of it. They do not even come here to see. One can feel the dimensions of an atrocity better by witnessing it firsthand.

The pictures do not mean anything. When you see the situation with your own eyes, it is really heartbreaking. All this nature is being devastated here. The share that will fall to Turkey after the gold is excavated is 2 percent. Only 2 percent… And its current value in 176 million Turkish Lira. If it is worth it… I do not have anything else to say.

’26 other licences granted in the region’

Another danger is that: It is just one gold operating area. There are 26 other mining licences granted in the region so far. These places will experience the same thing in the future. They are mine exploration licences. When these licences are converted to operating ones, their forests will be similarly destructed, their soils will be filled with cyanide and our water resources will be contaminated with cyanide. As you know, cyanide is the biggest poison. And it is just at the top of our water resource. That is why we are keeping our volume so up. It is right at the top of our water resource.

‘A first-degree seismic zone’

They say, ‘We will take precautions, we will do this, we will do that…’ It is a first-degree seismic zone. In other words, it cannot be put at risk. Yes, precautions can be taken. But even a single rupture or a hole that would open there can put us at risk. Our struggle is for that.

‘We will stage a huge protest on August 5’

We will stage a protest there on August 5. MPs will come, NGOs will come. We will stage a huge protest and show this place to people. The reaction grows anyway after people see it. Because it is hard to believe. I hope that the officials of the state will show sensibility and sensitivity to this issue and put a stop to it as soon as possible.

‘It is not solely the struggle of Çanakkale’

What expenses they have incurred can be really paid to them and it can be stopped before they inflict any more damage on nature. It is all we want.

This struggle is not a struggle that we wage solely for our citizens living in Çanakkale, it is a struggle that we wage for our all citizens. All of these areas are our common property. You do not have to live there, but it is your inheritance as well. These are the inheritances that need to pass to your children and grandchildren.

‘Let us hand it down to next generations’

Ida Mountains is the second mount in the world that produces so much oxygen. We are talking about Ida Mountains with one thousand springs. They are the asset of us all with their flora, fauna, vegetation cover, animals, insects and all… We want to hand down this asset to next generations as they are.” (HA/DB/SD)

* Photographs: Ülgür Gökhan’s Twitter account

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Open Letter by Zülfü Livaneli to UNESCO: They Will Destroy Ida Mountains

Artist Zülfü Livaneli has penned an open letter addressing UNESCO and expressed his concerns over the destruction of trees in Ida Mountains for a gold mine. “They will destroy this beautiful paradise”, Livaneli has warned.

Published on Bianet, Aug 5, 2019
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Writer and musician Zülfü Livaneli has penned an open letter addressing Director General of UNESCO Audrey Azoulay to raise concerns over the destruction of trees in Ida Mountains in Çanakkale for a gold mine.

Sharing the open letter on his Twitter account, Livaneli has stated that he is “writing this letter as a former UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and adviser to the Director General between the years of 1996 and 2017.”

Livaneli has continued his letter in following words:

‘An insult to the heritage of our world’

“First of all, I would like to congratulate you on your new post and secondly, to draw your attention to a crime being committed against the natural and cultural heritage of the world in a part of the Northwestern region of Turkey, namely Kaz Dağları (the famous mythological name is the Ida mountain).

“It saddens me to let you know that a Canadian firm has cut almost 200,000 trees here recently and that they are planning to extract gold by using cyanide, which will destroy this beautiful paradise.

“Despite the protests of millions of people, the company continues with its project. It is an insult to the tangible and intangible heritage of our world.

“I know that, as an intergovernmental organization, you have limited enforcement power on matters such as these, but we need your help to create an international public awareness about this horrible attack on our historic Ida mountain and on the local people of Ida.

“Please accept my letter as a reminder of UNESCO’s ideals and a call for urgent action.”

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