MAC/20: Mines and Communities

CYANIDE POISONING IN ESME, TURKEY! THE CULPRIT: CANADIAN-OWNED

Published by MAC on 2006-07-23

CYANIDE POISONING IN ESME, TURKEY! THE CULPRIT: CANADIAN-OWNED

ELDORADO/TUPRAG

From Üstün B. Reinart

23rd July 2006

Eldorado/Tuprag’s Kisladag goldmine officially started production in mid-July, amidst panic and controversy. Cyanide levels as high as 0.64 mg/litre were found in the blood samples taken from some villagers three days after they complained of symptoms of poisoning. The Company and Turkish Officials are accused of trying to cover-up.

On June 27, 1000 people in the villages and town of Esme, near Kisladag in Turkey flocked to local health centers and hospital emergency wards, complaining of nausea, head aches, diarrhea, shortness of breath, numbness in their arms and legs, and fits of trembling. Many of the sick villagers immediately blamed a controversial Canadian goldmine in nearby Kisladag.

The Eldorado/Tuprag goldmine started trial production on April 26, 2006, using sodium cyanide heap leach method in a huge area covering 15,717 hectares.

The Environmental Impact Statement of the mine, accepted on June 27, 2003, said it would operate for 17 years, but many scientists and doctors found blatant errors and omissions in the EIS. Villagers challenged it in court, requesting an injunction against it, but they lost, despite expert opinion supporting allegations of serious omissions in the EIS.

Some of the sick villagers, suspecting cyanide poisoning, contacted an advocacy group called Elele (hand-in-hand), and a group of Elele members rushed to Esme on June 30, with doctors from the Izmir Chamber of Physicians, to take blood samples. Although the samples were obtained from adults with their signed consent, the municipal administrator (Kaimakam) of the town seized eight vials of blood and withheld them, saying the analysis was unauthorized.

The physicians in the advocacy group urged the officials to release the samples for> immediate analysis, saying cyanide in the bloodstream would drop by 50% in 66 hours, but the vials were not released. The governor of the Province of Usak and the Kaimakam of the town of Esme promptly > announced that the sickness was caused by sewage contamination of the drinking water in the region.

The Elele group was able to analyze blood samples from nine of the sick people.

Analysis confirms cyanide poisoning.

The blood samples obtained three days after symptoms of poisoning appeared, contained cyanide ranging from 18 mg. per litre, to 65 mg.per litre.

Elele’s spokesperson, lawyer Arif Cangi said these amounts were alarming, especially in view of the fact that the cyanide levels in the blood would have dropped considerably by the time the samples were obtained.

The cyanide levels in the blood samples of the nine villagers were as follows:

Mahmut Kulali 0.30 mg/L, Halil Kaya 0.18 mg/L, Hulusi Ada 0.64 mg/L, Tayyip Ada 0.24 mg/L, Ali Ender Sercan 0.54 mg/L, Gizem Özkan 0.25 mg/L, Sinem Özkan 0.18 mg/L, Yagmur Elifcan Yildirim 0.25 mg/L, Halime Erhat: 0.22 mg/L

In addition to the cyanide-poisoning, high levels of arsenic were found in drinking water from a well in the town of Esme.

Cangi said ten lawyers have launched court cases against the Governor of Usak, the Ministry of Health, the Kaimakam of Esme and the municipal government, arguing that the licenses granted to Eldorado violate public health requirements. “It’s a crime for the mine to continue to operate while investigations are going on,” he said, “and a further crime that neither the company nor the Ministry of Health have a laboratory in the region or emergency plans to deal with such emergencies.”

The Eldorado/Tuprag mine in Kisladag opened officially with fanfare on July 15, just before Elele announced the analysis results.

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