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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 talked to 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