Environmentalists worried, locals unconcerned about mine expansion in Istanbul’s Çatalca
Environmentalists have voiced worries about a tripling of the size of a quartzite mine in Istanbul’s Çatalca district, though locals say they are unconcerned with the plan as they hope it will provide even more job opportunities.
“The mine is our source of life. If the mine is closed down not even 30 families will be left in this village. This mine provides us with all we need,” Yalıköy village head (muhtar) Fehmi Kaçar told daily Hürriyet on Jan. 25.
Ninety percent of the miners are locals, restauranteur Musa Eriken said, adding that he has not heard a single local complaining about the mine, which is located in an area dating back to the Byzantine Empire era and known by the name “Çilingöz.”
However, environmentalists take a different view of the effects of the mine expansion.
“The quadrupling of the mine in the heart of the Çilingöz forest will damage the entire area,” said Onur Akgül of the Northern Forestry Conservation organization, adding that animals forced to flee their natural habitat because of the construction of Istanbul’s third airport took shelter in the area.
“Let alone opening a quarry, the Bulgarian government has banned camping and picnics in these northern forests. But the Turkish government is promoting the looting of these forests in order to create capital for the construction business,” Akgül said, voicing concern for Turkey’s forests.
The total capacity of the quartzite mine in the area, as reported on Jan. 24, was tripled to 1.5 million tons per year as its license now covers an area of 185 hectares, an increase from 41.25 hectares, posing a great threat to the Çilingoz Nature Park.
The planned expansion, approved by a permission granted by the Energy Ministry, is expected to increase the amount of mining waste to 2.4 million tons per year. Expanded blasting operations are also expected to damage the balance of nature in the forest, leading to topsoil erosion of 229,000 square meters with a depth of 15 centimeters.
In addition, a total of eight streams - Düzdere, Taşdelen, Mandıralı, Karasu, Hamit, Kumtarla, Kırmalar and Küçükkırmalar - pass through the area of the mine.
The residential area most likely to be affected by the project is the village of Yalıköy, 2.2 kilometers from the mine area, while the closest cultivated area is 6.5 kilometers from the mine in the village of Karacaköy.
The planned decrease in the forest volume as a result of the project will damage the ecosystem and affect biodiversity, according to research prepared by Pınar Çam, a research assistant specializing on wildlife from Sinop University in the Black Sea region.
Reptile species such as the testudo hermanni, the European pond terrapin, and the ophisops elegans living in the project area and around it are under threat due to the project, the report stated. A total of 82 bird species are also located in the project area, which is similarly at risk due to the project. Among these, greater spotted eagles and lesser kestrels are already on the verge of extinction, the report added.
In addition, endangered sea otters inhabit the area, with one having been seen most recently in 2002, the report according to the report.