Normandy's Turkish Foray
Normandy's Turkish Foray
by Bob Burton
Mining Monitor Vol 1 No 2 1996
A 1994 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade cablegram, leaked to Mining Monitor, reveals that Australian Government officials and former member of Parliament Mr Alan Griffiths actively lobbied on behalf of Normandy Mining Ltd's Eurogold mining project in Turkey describing Normandy Chairman Robert de Crespigny as "a leading environmentalist".
During his three-day tour, between 2nd and 5th August 1994, Mr Griffiths had meetings with the Ministers of Tourism, the Economy, Environment and Energy. Mr Griffiths was accompanied by the Australian Ambassador, and, in the meeting with the Minister for Environment, the General Manager of the Eurogold project, Mr Ashley.
At the time of the meetings, Alan Griffiths was a backbench MP, having been forced to resign as Minister for Resources following revelations relating to the running of a sandwich shop that he part-owned. At the time the Normandy Mining proposal for a gold mine at Ovacik had not obtained environmental approvals.
The cablegram records refers to Griffiths indicating that "he fully understood the need to address environmentalconcerns but assured his interlocutors that Eurogold would put in place environmental controls the equal of any in the world. He said that de Crespigny, Chairman of Normandy Poseidon, was a leading environmentalist and, as such, an adviser to the Australian Government. Mr Griffiths acknowledged that the use of the term "cyanide" raised concerns (he had them when first becoming Minister for Mines) but cyanide processes were a traditional part of gold mining worldwide ... these processes were controllably safe".
In the meeting with the Minister for Tourism, Mr Culhaoglu, Mr Griffiths argued that "gold mining should not interfere with the tourism industry near Bergama (ancient Pergamon). In fact, in Australia gold mining was a tourist attraction". The DFAT cablegram notes that the Minister was "sceptical".
The Turkish Minister for Environment, Riza Akcali, advised that the region was rich in artefacts and historical sites and was important for tourist income. The DFAT cable records him as stating "it is not enough that I and convinced and the technical committees convinced". What would the company do if the public lay down in front of the machines? The Mayor of Bergama was concerned. How could public opinion be overcome? ... It would be futile to proceed without public opinion being on side. A public relations program should be undertaken but the interested firm was not enthusiastic".
The cable records Mr Griffiths stating that he thought that Eurogold could support a public relations program but wanted the environmental approval beforehand. "Once approval had been granted, the education process should be undertaken. This procedure is not unknown in Australia," the cable states. The cable also records that the Australian "Ambassador noted that he had recently been to the Izmir/Bergama region to assist in the PR process". The Environment Undersecretary, Bursa, stated that it had expected the company to do more on the public relations front and rejected a suggestion from Griffiths that prior approval be granted to be followed by a company PR program.
Following the meeting Griffiths went to visit the mine site at Ovacik and met with the Mayor of Bergama who was equivocal about the project. The cable records the Mayor as revealing "continuing reservations supported by recent information from the New Zealand anti-mining lobby".
The DFAT officer summarises by stating that "we will continue to work with the company, drawing on the department recent useful collection of information in maintaining the pressure. Eurogold still faces the dilemma of how to handle (and how much to spend on) a public relations exercise. Ambassador has sent follow up letters to Ministers".
In late March 1996, Normandy Mining's $45 million project was approved. The project is to be developed as a combined open cut and underground mine with a plant that can process 300,000 tonnes of ore a year. Normandy Mining Ltd an its subsidiary, PosGold Ltd, effectively owns 40% of the project through the group's majority shareholding in their international resources arm La Source Compagnie Miniere SAS. The remainder of the Eurogold project is owned by Canada's Inmet Mining Corporation, formerly Metall Mining Corporation. Normandy expect construction to commence in September this year.
Normandy has also proceeded to a full feasibility study on another gold mine proposal in Mastira in the far east of Turkey and is looking at another gold prospect at Kaynarca.