Mine construction plans threaten environment in Aegean resort island Gökçeada

Mine construction plans threaten environment in Aegean resort island Gökçeada

Ömer Erbil – ÇANAKKALE
Mine construction plans threaten environment in Aegean resort island Gökçeada

The Aegean resort island of Gökçeada is on the verge of environmental damage from plans to construct a gold mine, prompting criticism from authorities and residents of the island.

An application has been filed by Merih Mining Company to search for gold and silver mines on the island, which is a popular destination for tourists due to its natural and cultural features.

According to a statement released by the Environment and Urbanization Ministry’s Çanakkale Provincial Directorate, the application concerning the search for a mine in the Yuvalı region has been approved and the process of environmental impact assessment (ÇED) had been launched afterwards.

“We are even against drilling, let alone extracting mines. Due to drilling in previous years, the location of water underground has changed,” Gökçeada Mayor Ünal Çetin told daily Hürriyet on Dec. 8, adding they are struggling to make the island an organic one.

“We have faith in public power and think this decision will be withdrawn,” said Çetin, who had applied to the Çanakkale Governor’s Office for the cancellation of the search license.

Organic agriculture activities have been ongoing on the island since 2002 and authorities developed agriculture tourism in 2008, offering visitors of the island a unique natural environment.

In 2011, the island was added to a network of slow cities in Turkey by the Cittaslow General Committee.

Gökçeada’s popularity has been on the rise with its tourism, history, organic agriculture and natural sports opportunities, but the recent permission for gold mine search efforts on the island has sparked environmental concerns.

All non-governmental organizations on the island are planning to stage a joint protest for the cancellation of the mine searching license.

According to environmental experts, 1,000 tons of rock need to be melted with cyanide to obtain a kilogram of gold. If the plan that will lead to changes in Gökçeada’s topographic structure is not withdrawn, underground water and five lakes will face serious damage.

While the existence of a national park and a lake close to the site where the search for the mine will occur adds to environmental concerns, the company’s project file denies any possible damage to the park and the lake during the search efforts.

The company also claimed no solid or liquid waste would be poured into any lakes around the area.

However, the company’s project file submitted to authorities has failed to mention the effects of drilling hundreds of meters beneath the soil and to water underground.

There are also two residential areas close to the project site, with one being Şahinkaya neighborhood, which is 2,875 meters away, and the other being Dereköy, which is a 3,274-meter distance.

According to experts, these two residential sites will be severely damaged during both drilling and mine construction, causing residents to worry.

Speaking about the damage Gökçeada is facing, Mayor Çetin noted the incident is deeply saddening.

“I told them [the governor’s office] that we will never have an affirmative view. We are struggling to make Gökçeada an organic island. The point reached today is deeply saddening since we had hoped for joint advances in tourism and agriculture. The location of water underground has changed due to the General Directorate of Mineral Research and Exploration’s drilling works in previous years,” he said.

Another statement was released from Gökçeada Volunteers Association, which said the news of gold searching saddened and scared them.

“We were waiting for the official announcement that Gökçeada would be an organic island. The area for mine searching encompasses the most beautiful beach on the island and also neighbors an agriculture irrigation lake,” the association said.