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Villagers get mayors' support in fight against gold mines

BERGAMA - Daily news with wires | 9/27/2009 12:00:00 AM |

A meeting was held Friday to support villagers who have been fighting against planned gold mines in a plateau near Bergama.

A meeting was held Friday to support villagers who have been fighting against planned gold mines on a plateau near Bergama, located 100 kilometers north of the Aegean port city of İzmir.

Efforts to stop gold mines on Kozak Plateau, which started three years ago, have received major support from the mayors of the districts in the region. Among the participants in the meeting Friday were Bergama Mayor Mehmet Gönenç, Ayvalık Mayor Hasan Bülent Türközen, Dikili Mayor Osman Özgüven and Küçükkuyu Mayor Cengiz Balkan, who also expressed that they were against mining in Kozak.

Gönenç said he was happy to see all mayors in the region were supporting the case. The mayor criticized the Environment and Forestry Ministry, which has recently approved an Environmental Impact Assessment, or EIA, report for the area despite the strong opposition from villagers. “We will continue our fight within the democratic rules,” Gönenç said. “We must be together to get a result, I want to see the number of people in this struggle growing day by day.”  

Küçükkuyu Mayor Balkan shared his experience fighting against gold mines. “They wanted to dig the Kaz Mountains (Mount Ida) in 2007, but organizations and olive producers came together to stop them,” he told the audience. “Kozak is one of the country’s unique regions; the local villagers should claim the lands. I am not against mining, but no one can destroy Kaz Mountains or Kozak for profit.”

Ayvalık Mayor Türközen said individual protests will not work and everybody should stand together, like in the struggles in the past.

Gülden Karabudak, a villager who collects pine nuts in Kozak Plateau, said the real gold in Kozak is the pine nut. “The gold search in Kozak has stolen our hope,” she said. “”The locals don’t want you here, why do you insist?”

The plateau, seen as a national center for pine nuts, is surrounded by 17 villages, one in the Ayvalık Municipality and the other 16 in the Bergama Municipality.

Since Hellenic times, pine nut trees have constituted a significant part of the flora in Bergama and its surrounding areas. Today, Turkey earns more than $40 million annually from pine nut exports, according to information provided by the villagers of Bergama.

Pine nut trees, the sole source of income for the 17 villages, will dry out if gold is extracted from these areas. Additionally, agricultural lands and nature will be lost, said the villagers.

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