Mine searching plans canceled in Gökçeada after environmental concerns
Ömer Erbil – ÇANAKKALE
An application filed by a mining company to search for gold and silver mines in the Aegean resort island of Gökçeada in the northwestern Çanakkale province has been withdrawn after environmental concerns, according to a statement released by the Environment and Urbanization Ministry’s Provincial Directorate.
“The Merih mining company on Dec. 14 has requested the cancellation of the project through the online EIA [environmental impact assessment] system. This request has been approved by our directorate and the EIA process has been cancelled,” the Environment and Urbanization Ministry’s Çanakkale Provincial Directorate said in a statement.
The company’s statement came following a series of criticisms that any mining plans on the island would undermine its unique natural and cultural elements.
The criticism had initially sparked after the Merih mining company’s application for a mine search on the island’s Yuvalı region was accepted by the Environment and Urbanization Ministry’s Çanakkale Provincial Directorate, as a result of which the process for an environmental impact assessment had been launched.
After protesting the approval process, island residents and many environmental NGOs released a joint declaration, making themselves heard by the authorities.
Upon these developments, the Environment and Urbanization Ministry’s Çanakkale Provincial Directorate announced that they temporarily suspended the EIA process after asking for opinions from 13 institutions regarding the issue. This eventually led the Merih mining company to cancel their application, the directorate said.
One of the people who stood against the project was Gökçeada Mayor Ünal Çetin, who told daily Hürriyet on Dec. 8 that he had asked the Çanakkale Governor’s Office for the cancellation of the EIA process.
“We have faith in public power and think this decision will be withdrawn,” Çetin had said in his comments.
Following the mining company’s withdrawal of their application, Çetin told daily Hürriyet that this decision proved once again how they were right to trust the power of public opinion. The Gökçeada Volunteers Association, one of the associations that marked the protests, thanked all of the NGOs that supported them and said the island had “turned from the verge of a disaster.”
Gökçeada’s popularity has been on the rise with its tourism, history, organic agriculture and natural sports opportunities. Organic agriculture activities have been ongoing on the island since 2002 and authorities developed agricultural 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. However, island residents were shaken by potential mine searching works disturbing the peace following initial reports that the Environment and Urbanization Ministry’s Provincial Directorate had given a go for the EIA process.
According to environmental experts, 1,000 tons of rock needed to be melted with cyanide to obtain a kilogram of gold, leading to changes in the island’s topographic structure unless the plan for mining works was withdrawn.
The experts had also said underground water and five lakes would face serious damage under such circumstances.