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Artvin’s stubborn people will not give up their fight against the destructive gold mine

By Cem Iskender Aydin.

Residents of Artvin, a small town in the North-eastern Black Sea region in Turkey continue to resist the opening of a dangerous gold and copper mine in the Cerattepe area since more than 20 years. After years of resistance and several court rulings against the project, the conflict has re-escalated in July 2015, when the mining company wanted to conduct a site exploration.

In January 2015, Rize Administrative Court overruled the project’s positive EIA report. However, with an outstanding rush and within very short time, the mining company (Cengiz Holding) has received another positive EIA report despite the court ruling, giving right to a renewed permit to mine in the area, with supposedly newer technologies. Another complaint prepared by 61 lawyers has been filed in July 2015, with the signature of 760 people, making it the most extensive environmental court case in Turkey’s history[1]. The case is still ongoing and the examination of panel of experts has been awaited in these days. Since July 2015, people of Artvin have reacted to the advances by the company, and started to keep a continuous watch by barricading the road leading to the planned area. The protests has received nationwide supports from several local and national NGOs

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Photo: The president of Green Artvin Association is taken into custody by the police on 17th February

On 16th and 17th February 2016, police forces attacked the peaceful protesters, keeping watch of the critical nature site, with tear gas, plastic bullets and pepper sprays. Huge numbers of people arriving at the town in 300 vehicles poured in Atmaca neighbourhood, to hold the barricade against high number of police forces, transferred from the neighbouring provinces. Lawyer of Green Artvin Association, the leading local organisation resisting against the project, Bedrettin Kalın stated that they could not understand why the firm can do such a thing while the judicial process is still continuing and they decided to gather to protect nature and right to live in a healthy environment[2]. Meanwhile, on 17th February, the president of the Green Artvin Association was taken into custody.

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Photo: Police forces attacked the protesters with tear gas on 16th February

The mining project threatens one of the most important nature conservation sites in Turkey, from where all of Artvin’s drinking water comes from. Just next the mine site, there is Hatila National Park, and Kafkasör Tourism Conservation and Development area under it. The area hosts 2,000 plant forms, 124 endemic forms, hundreds of animal forms[3].

More information on this conflict is now in the Atlas of Environmental Justice

[1] Most extensive environmental case opened to save Cerattepe, Today’s Zaman

[2] People continue to resist opening of gold mine in Cerattepe, Cihan News Agency, , accessed on 17.02.2016

[3] Attack against People Opposing Copper Mine in Artvin, Bianet, accessed on 17.02.2016

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