MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Three Balkan Countries Say “No” to Goldmines

Published by MAC on 2005-03-11

Three Balkan Countries Say “No” to Goldmines

Hellenic Mining Watch - Press Release from activist meeting in Bulgaria

March 11, 2005

Bulgarian, Greek and Turkish anti-mining activists met on March 4 2005 in Krumovgrad, southern Bulgaria, near the Greek-Bulgarian border. The meeting, organized by the local committee for struggle against the proposed goldmine at Krumovgrad, aimed at setting the basis of a coordinated action against destructive goldmines in the region.

In both Greece and Turkey, after years of hard struggle, the citizens’ movement against goldmines has scored its first crucial victories. In Greece, a landmark 2001 Supreme Court ruling canceled the Olympias gold project, judging it was unsustainable and contrary to the constitutional provision for environmental protection. In Turkey, a similar Supreme Court ruling in 1997 found the Ovacik goldmine, near the coastal city of Bergama, to be unconstitutional as it entailed unacceptable risks to human health. It took, however, 7 more years and a second court ruling in 2004 to shut down the illegally operating goldmine. Greek and Turkish activists have established close ties and a fruitful cooperation covering many aspects of their struggle.

In Bulgaria, the plans of the Canadian company “Dundee Precious Metals Ltd” for an open cast goldmine at Krumovgrad, which threatens to ruin the area’s agricultural economy, spurred the reaction of the local farming population. At the March 4 meeting, affected villagers from the Ovacik area exposed the damage caused by the goldmine to their health, their crop and the water resources. Activists from Greece and Turkey shared with the local people the experiences of their own struggles, discussed the strategies they used and promised to help their Bulgarian friends for the benefit of the region.

While the Baia Mare disaster is still alive in the memory of Europe, a similar catastrophe is being planned in southern Europe. According to the activists, the Krumovgrad project is a “recipe for disaster”. The project area is only 800 meters from the houses of Krumovgrad, in the basin of river Ardas which is a tributary of Evros – a major regional river and the natural boundary between Greece and Turkey. In case of a catastrophic accident, three countries and the fragile ecosystem of the Evros delta would suffer the consequences.

The exploration potential of the region is an additional cause of concern, as Krumovgrad is part of the metalliferous zone of the Rhodope mountain range, shared between Bulgaria and Greece. Mining industry sources have long been citing “the new large mining region of southern Bulgaria- northern Greece”. The situation is similar in Turkey, where no less than 600 sites have been designated for goldmining.

“The outlook for the region is very grim”, says Daniel Sergelidis, a member of the Greek delegation at Krumovgrad. And he continues: “Despite government policies that favor unconditional surrender to foreign capital, economic hardships and rising unemployment, the people of the Balkans are not willing to jeopardize their future. Our cooperation is an excellent example of solidarity between the peoples of the region, aiming at protecting the environment and promoting sustainable development”.

For further information:

Daniel Sergelidis, HMW, Komotini, Greece

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