Turkish province bans protests against new gold minePublished by MAC on 2016-09-21
Source: Middle East Eye, Hurriyet Daily News, Statement (2016-09-20)
Post-coup emergency rules used to outlaw rally against mining in the Cerattepe region of Artvin
Tensions have been high over attempts by the Cengiz Holding business conglomerate to begin mining in the Cerattepe region of Artvin, with persistent protests by locals and environmental activists.
This week, a hearing was set to be the last in a case filed against an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report by Turkey's environment ministry, which said that mining had been "approved and allowed" in Cerattepe. The case was filed by 751 individuals and 61 lawyers, including members of the Green Artvin Association, to overturn the permitting.
The case is said to be the biggest environmental lawsuit in Turkey´s history and the people of Artvin have been struggling for years not to sacrifice nature to mining, according to prominent Turkish journalist Gila Benmayor.
The Cerattepe region is known for its rich forests, that is home to more than 2000 plant forms, a diverse wildlife and important water resources, all of which are being threatened by the mining plans, according to the forestry union TARIM ORMAN-IS.
See previous on MAC: 2016-02-19 Police teargas gold mining protest in northeast Turkey
Turkish province bans protests against new gold mine
Post-coup emergency laws used to ban green rally against construction of a gold mine in Artvin province.
19 September 2016
A Turkish province on Monday banned public demonstrations "as a precaution" while a court prepared to consider an application for a new gold mine which opponents say will damage the environment.
The Artvin governor’s office said it had banned rallies and protests in the Black Sea province for a month in the wake of the announcement.
According to the Dogan news agency, the ability to impose the ban was made possible because of the state of emergency declared by the Turkish government after the failed military coup on 15 July.
“In order for the current peaceful situation to continue and prevent harm against public peace, all rallies, press releases, meetings, sit-in protests, distributing notices and similar activities were banned due to violent activities that can emerge before, during or after them,” the statement by the office read.
Tensions have been high over attempts by the Cengiz Holding business conglomerate to begin mining in the Cerattepe region of Artvin, with repeated protests by locals and environmental activists.
Monday's hearing was set to be the last in a case filed against an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report by Turkey's environment ministry, which said that mining had been "approved and allowed" in Cerattepe.
The plan for the gold mine in the Artvin region had initially been blocked by the Turkish judiciary following ecological complaints.
A case filed by 751 individuals and 61 lawyers including members of the Green Artvin Association looked to overturn the ruling.
However, according to social media, a mass walk-out occured during the hearing after lawyers claimed the judge lacked impartiality:
According to a statement from the Building and Wood Workers International in May, Cerattepe is "home to more than 2,000 plant forms" as well as "diverse wildlife and important water resources, all of which are being threatened by the mining plans".
"But the struggle in Cerattepe is about more than saving the forests, water and jobs of people in the region," read the statement. "To save our forests is about saving the climate for all of us and our future generations to come."
Cengiz Holding is run by Mehmet Cengiz, who has close links to Turkey's ruling party, the AKP. According to Bloomberg, Cengiz sits with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son on the board of a charity at a university named after Erdogan and is originally from Erdogan’s hometown.
Cengiz was also mentioned in the so-called Panama Papers leak of offshore tax-haven information. According to Cumhuriyet newspaper, Cengiz has six offshore companies managed by Seref Dogan Erbek, a man currently wanted by US authorities for financial manipulation and fraud.
After the story was reported by Cumhuriyet, Cengiz allegedly rang the paper and accused them of being "sons of bitches".
A local far-right group calling themselves the Patriotic Youth of Rize released a statement on Monday warning that they were "not going to allow" any disruption to be caused by environmental activists during the court hearing.
The group warned that "foreign forces which carry out all sorts of evil acts in order for our country to get into chaos and get separated have now used ‘Cerattepe’ as an excuse; and, they are trying to provoke the pure and naive people of Artvin in order to create a second Gezi Park atmosphere,"referring to the 2013 demonstrations against Erdogan's government which were initially sparked by environmental protesters in Istanbul.
The statement ominously added that "in case of furor[e] and attacks that these people could carry out, we are going to bring along with us our ‘support tools’ as a necessary precaution".
Environmental protests have been a focal-point for much of the opposition to the AKP government since it came to power in 2002.
The 2013 Gezi Park demonstrations, which eventually saw millions of Turkish citizens on the streets to oppose the government, began after police broke up a sit-in by activists attempting to protect one of the last green spaces in Istanbul.
Public outrage peaked again after more than 300 people died when a mine in the western town of Soma exploded.
The biggest environmental case in Turkey
September 20, 2016
Are Native Americans luckier than people from our Black Sea province of Artvin? As I am writing this piece, I don’t know the answer to this question because the “Cerattepe” case, which is defined as Turkey’s biggest environmental case, was still ongoing in the Black Sea province of Rize.
With 750 plaintiffs and 60 attorneys, the Cerattepe case is said to be the biggest environmental case not only in Turkey but in world history.
What happened in North Dakota may have gone unnoticed because of our long holiday. The “Standing Rock” Sioux tribe has been staging protests to prevent an oil pipeline from crossing their land. This resistance was supported by other Native American tribes and many environmental activists. The Sioux objected because the pipeline would damage natural water resources and the graves of their ancestors.
Who can know better than the local population how nature would be harmed and its effects? In the end, the White House demanded the company that was to build the pipeline freeze its activities for a few days ago to inspect the situation.
Native Americans heaved a sigh of relief.
From North Dakota to Artvin, which is sometimes called the Switzerland of the Black Sea, the local people of Artvin have been struggling for years not to sacrifice nature to mining.
With its unique nature and biodiversity, Artvin has two of the 40 natural parks of Turkey. The Green Artvin Association founded to protect the nature in Artvin is 20 years old. The association has won most of the cases it has opened against companies attempting to conduct mining activities there.
I had shared this year’s Chamber of Architects prize with the head of the Green Artvin Association, a true fighter for nature, Nur Neşe Karahan.
The number of companies ready to ruin such beautiful nature with cyanide for the sake of drilling valuable minerals such as copper and gold, to cut the trees, thus causing landslides, is far from being only a few.
The Artvin people, just like the Sioux people, know very well how nature is able to take revenge. They are right because their region is subject to frequent landslides due to the shrinking of Black Sea forests and climate change. Thus, the Artvin people, just like the Sioux people, have been on watch in the area for months, maybe for years.
At Cerattepe, 5 kilometers from Artvin, Cengiz Holding wanted to start mining activities. This company is lately known for many state bids it has won, including the third airport in Istanbul.
Cengiz Holding, which started mining activities in 2012 with its Eti Bakır Arama Company, of course, confronted the Artvin people. Several cases were opened. Mining in Cerattepe was banned in 2014; the decision was approved at a higher court. However, Cengiz Holding obtained a second Environmental Impact Assessment Report (ÇED); new cases were opened. The Cerattepe case that is ongoing in Rize has a political aspect, some people believe.
I wonder if Ankara, like Washington, will come up with a “let us reconsider the situation one more time” decision.
Support the union members fighting to save the forests of Cerattepe
19 May 2016
The water supply, jobs and rich forest in the Turkish district Cerattepe by the Black Sea is being thretened by a mining company seeking to exploit the land for gold, silver and copper.
The struggle against the mining plans has been going on for many years and the big protest movement has been able to stop and postpone the plans several times.
In February this year defied a court ruling to stop the mining plans, and started closing down the area for construction thousands of people gathered to protest against the mining plans.
“Nature will have no mercy on us while taking back what we had stolen from her,” is the main slogan of the union.
The demonstration was violently beaten down by police. The Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs are also threatening union members at the local forestry directorate who joined the protests to be transferred to other regions of the country if they don’t give up.
The forestry union TARIM ORMAN-IS has now turned to us with an urgent request for help to stop the mining plans and harassment of union members standing up for their community. The Cerattepe region of Artvin is known for its rich forests that is home to more than 2000 plant forms, a diverse wildlife and important water resources, all of which are being threatened by the mining plans.
But the struggle in Cerattepe is about more than saving the forests, water and jobs of people in the region. To save our forests is about saving the climate for all of us and our future generations to come.
Join our action to demand an immediate stop to the mining plans and harassments of union members. Together we can save the beautiful land of Cerattepe from being destroyed forever!