MAC: Mines and Communities

Police teargas gold mining protest in northeast Turkey

Published by MAC on 2016-02-19
Source: RT.com, Today's Zaman (2016-02-21)

Cengiz Holding A.S. is a Turkish conglomerate with major interests in construction, energy, mining, and tourism.

Having started in the construction sector in 1980, today it is a large group of 35 companies with an annual turnover of US$ 4 billion. Cengiz acquired Eti Copper in 2004 and Eti Aluminium in 2005.

The copper smelting plant in Samsun is the only which produces copper cathode from ore in Turkey, and Eti Aluminium Plant is the only aluminium manufacturer. The company also runs wolfram mines in Bursa, antimony mines in İzmir and phosphate mines in Mazıdağı.

Police teargas locals protesting new gold mines in Artvin, northeast Turkey

https://www.rt.com/news/332725-police-teargas-protests-artvin/

17 February 2016

A company planning to start gold and copper ore mining in the Cerattepe region in northeast Turkey has encountered fierce opposition from green activists and locals. Police used tear gas in the standoff.

“We defend our right to live and we will not stand down. The police and gendarmerie protect the company's vehicles, but the state should be standing with us,” Today’s Zaman quoted local activist and Green Artvin Association Head Nur Neşe Karahan as saying.

An estimated 2,000-3,000 locals rallied on Monday on the road to the site where the Cengiz Holding Mining Company is planning to cut down a virgin forest to start construction on gold and copper ore mines.

Protesters blocked the road with about 300 private vehicles to prevent the mining company and police from entering the area with heavy equipment.

According to Hasan Yüksel from the Green Artvin Association, who spoke to the Açık radio station, there were about 800 police officers present, plus some 50 private security guards for the Cengiz Holding Company.

Protesters refused to disperse and clashed with police and security guards hired by the mining company. Police fired huge amounts of tear gas and the whole site became engulfed in dense smoke.

Law enforcement brought in several trucks to clear the way, but didn’t make much headway. Finally, police had to erect barricades to separate the mining company's vehicles and the demonstrators.

Deputies from Turkey’s main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Uğur Bayraktan and Barış Karadeniz, reportedly joined the protesters in Artvin.

In Uğur Bayraktan’s words, the order to clear the way and disperse the protesters came from Turkey’s Interior Minister Efkan Ala.

“We were able to convince all ministers except Ala,” Bayraktan said, promising to meet the minister once he gets back to Ankara, the Hürriyet Daily reported.

Opposition activists organized a rally in solidarity with Artvin in İstanbul’s Üsküdar neighborhood. The demonstrators from the Black Sea Rebellion Platform and Arhavi Nature Protection Platform played Black Sea region folk music and carried banners, reading: “We can do without gold, but not without Artvin”, “The people of Artvin are not alone” and “No entry to Cerattepe,” Today’s Zaman reports.

The Cengiz Holding Company started its gold mining efforts in Cerattepe area in 2012.

In 2014, a court decision halted the company's project, after an environmental impact report on the mine had been considered.

However, the company appealed the decision to the Council of State, Turkey’s highest court for cases related to administrative law. A new report was approved by the Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs in June 2015.

Shortly after, on June 21, the locals set up camp and began protesting against the company's mining efforts.


Protests over Artvin mine construction grow as more security forces deployed

Gendarmerie arrived Cerattepe as reinforcements for the police officers on Wednesday.

Today's Zaman

17 February 2016

ISTANBUL - Anti-mining demonstrations in the Black Sea province of Artvin escalated after locals built barricades to block police officers in protest of a company's move to open a new mine in the province's green Cerattepe district.

Protesters were photographed building makeshift barricades on Tuesday morning to block police from entering roads. The Birgün daily reported that gendarmes arrived as reinforcements for the police officers.

Locals mobilized on Monday morning after workers for the Cengiz Holding Company arrived in Cerattepe, accompanied by police teams and private security, for the development of a mine.

A deputy from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Uğur Bayraktan, initiated a simultaneous sit-in and hunger strike in front of the Artvin Governor's office on Tuesday morning. "Unless the wildness in Artvin ends, the resistance will continue. The scream in Artvin will be heard across Turkey," Bayraktan wrote on Twitter account on Wednesday.

The Cihan news agency reported on Wednesday that 11 people were detained by the police during a protest held in front of the office of Cengiz Holding in Ankara. The police used tear gas against the protesters. The protesters shouted phrases such as, “We will not allow you to destroy Artvin.”

In the meantime, the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) released a written statement on Wednesday, announcing that it supports the resistance in Artvin. In addition to saying that the Cerattepe region in Artvin has one of the largest primeval forest ecosystems in the world, the party's statement declared, “We support the legitimate and just resistance of the people in Artvin.”

Security forces began closing off an area for the mine construction on Monday evening, and locals reacted by blocking the road. Trucks later arrived in an attempt to tow what amounted to a total of almost 300 cars barring the way. Reports stated that between 2,000-3,000 protesters participated in the demonstration.

The Hürriyet daily reported that security forces predicted that there may be injuries and warned Artvin State Hospital to be prepared with extra medical staff in its emergency room.

The police used tear gas cannisters on locals after they refused to disperse and leave the site, and physically pushed the protesters, who were joined by opposition deputies.

Hasan Yüksel from the Green Artvin Association spoke to the Açık radio station in a live broadcast on Monday and explained that there were around 800 police and gendarmerie officers and an additional 50 or so private security guards for the Cengiz Holding Company.


Turkey Suspends Contested Gold Mine Project After Protests

Agence France-Presse

24 February 2016

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu early today hosted in the capital Ankara a delegation from the Black Sea region to discuss controversial plans to build the gold and copper mine in the town of Cerrattepe in the Artvin region.

The premier hailed the two-hour meeting as "productive" and said the government gave some assurances to the delegation for a peaceful solution to the standoff.

"First of all, the mine operator will suspend its activities at Cerrattepe until a court verdict is delivered," Davutoglu told a rally in the central Anatolian province of Konya after the meeting.

He told the rally in Konya -- a bastion of his ruling AKP party -- that everyone would then respect the court's decision.

The project has been the subject of numerous legal complaints although it was not immediately clear which specific case Davutoglu was referring to.

Davutoglu assured that his government was open to any "well-intentioned" proposal to protect Artvin's natural fabric.

But he warned: "We will restore public order within the rules of a state governed by rule of law.

"And within this framework, if a wrong step is taken we will do what's necessary."

Over the past weeks, thousands of Artvin residents have held protests against the project which would see an ancient forest razed to the ground.

While the suspension means the project could still ultimately go ahead, the decision marks a rare victory for Turkey's environmental movement.

After protesters held nightly vigils in Artvin to protest against the project, the situation in the city was currently calm with activists awaiting the return of the participants in the Ankara meeting, an AFP photographer said.

Police had at the weekend fired tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters seeking to block the start of the construction work. At least 26 were hurt in the clashes.

The conglomerate behind the project is the Cengiz Holding company, with its chief executive Mehmet Cengiz seen as a close ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The area close to the border with Georgia is seen as one of the most environmentally important in the country with its wet climate creating a lush landscape of extraordinary beauty.

But environmental organisations have branded the planned mine "illegal" and said it would ruin the surroundings.

Erdogan and the Turkish government are very wary of environmentally-motivated protests after grassroots demonstrations in 2013 against the redevelopment of Gezi Park in Istanbul's Taksim Square snowballed into an uprising against his rule.

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