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Gold prospecting may devastate Turkey's Kaz Mountains

ISTANBUL – Radikal | 11/7/2010 12:00:00 AM |

Following a three-year break from gold prospecting in the Kaz Mountains near Çanakkale, 11 companies have restarted digging

Following a three-year break from prospecting for gold in the Kaz Mountains near Çanakkale, 11 companies have restarted digging operations and may devastate one of Turkey’s most sensitive alpine environments, environmentalists have said.

“Gold cannot be unearthed from the ground in moulds. It is distilled with cyanide,” Bayramiç District Mayor İsmail Sakin Tuncer said, according to a Saturday report by daily Radikal.

Prospecting which began in 2007 has been halted by protests from municipal figures concerned about the works, Radikal reported, with local environmental figures saying the prospecting process was dangerously toxic.

“This process brings an end to vegetable and fruit farming and stockbreeding. The cyanide mixes with the atmosphere and comes back to the soil in the rain,” Tuncer said.

The Environment Platform of Çanakkale and the head of the Agricultural Engineers Chamber Hicri Nalbant said they would begin informing the public about the danger of any future extraction of gold from the mountainous region.

The government recently amended the Mining Law, effectively giving prospectors permission to search for prospective mine sites closer to water basins, wildlife and restricted areas than was allowed in the past.

[HH] No prospective danger

Public Relations Coordinator of Teck Mining Nilgün Polat claimed his company in no way posed any threat to nature. Teck Mining is a Canadian company that has been prospecting in Turkey for 20 years, Polat said, adding that his company never uses any hazardous chemicals.

“We are conducting all of our works under the control of the Forest Administration and according to the law,” Polat said. Denying accusations that his company has been involved in the controversial use of cyanide, Polat said no practices other than wash drilling, concrete and clay are used during prospecting.

[HH] Fighting against the use of cyanide

Nilgün Pelit’s statements signal a “misunderstanding” that has been made repeatedly since the year 2007, Radikal reported. Companies are still searching for gold in the Kaz Mountains, and at least during the exploratory stage, cyanide is not used. This is known by environmentalists and local politicians. However, if gold is discovered, cyanide is required for its extraction.

However, environmentalists and local politicians demand that gold should not be excavated from fragile areas such as the Kaz Mountains because the surface of the Kaz Mountains is famous for its water, and olives, and the tourism it brings is more valuable than gold.

Protests over gold prospecting in the Kaz area broke out in 2007, when a new Mining Law paved the way for mining activities to go ahead in a variety of formerly restricted areas, even though the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, protested and the Constitutional Court annulled some articles in the amended law.

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