Will these pledges save Turkey’s Artvin?
Dialogue should be seen as an opportunity for both sides. While monologues are identified with authority, dialogues represent an eagerness for cooperation and a wish to hear the voice of the other. The common good can only be reached through dialogue. So it is pleasing that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu recently got together with the Artvin Green Association delegation to talk about the planned mine in Cerattepe. It is even better that he said the dialogue would continue.
The prime minister made some promises after this meeting. He said the mine would operate with a “closed gallery” system and that a special lift would be built before the area was later reforested.
Some people must have told the prime minister that as long as these things are completed, there will be no harm to Artvin. Unfortunately this is not true. A closed mine is less harmful to the environment than an open mine but this doesn’t mean a closed gallery is a good thing.
“The underground operation will start from the very bottom,” scientist and geology engineer Tahir Öngür has said. “They will dig there and drain the underground water in order to work. To temporarily eliminate the acid of the water they will add lime paste. But the water will acidify again. All underground water will react with sulfide minerals for 14 years, and when the water reaches its current level today it would be acidified. The worst feature of acidic water is that it carries cancerogenic minerals.”
The most recent environmental impact (ÇED) report revealed with a map how the underground waters would be polluted, Öngür added.
In order to proceed just 3.5 meters in the underground galleries, miners will have to explode 130 kilos of dynamite daily. But the region has in the past been affected by landslides, which can occur when there is vibration and changing water pressure. This issue was covered in previous ÇED reports but the latest ÇED report does not mention it.
Regarding the lift issue, opening a road to carry the ore would have led to total destruction - but building a lift will also lead to destruction. Many trees would have to be cut so poles can be erected and roads would have to be built to reach the poles. When trees disappear and their roots no longer hold the ground, landslides will begin.
In fact, there is another option that does not require the cutting of trees. They could have opted to use the road of the nearby Zeytinli village for the mine. However, this is a longer route and so would be an extra cost for the company.
Planting new trees for each tree cut down would also be troublesome, according to Öngür. “Wherever they have done that in the past, those trees have never actually grown,” he said. Indeed, the ground in the region is already problematic. Because of the soil and the rocks there, tree roots cannot go very deep and must go horizontally. In fact, the company that had a license to build a mine at the beginning of the 2000s was not able to grow any trees in the area it had cut. Even if you are able to plant trees there, they can only grow knee-high because there are no older trees around to protect them from frost and other harmful elements.
Even though Prime Minister Davutoğlu has promised that gold will absolutely not be processed in Cerattepe, the mining company has not given up its license to build a goldmine. If not today, they could ask for approval in 12 or 14 years. There are no legal obstacles to that. So even if the prime minister keeps his promise for as long as he is in power, another political authority in the future may not.