Thousands of Turks including opposition lawmakers staged a peaceful and unusually large protest on the outskirts of a small western town on Monday against what they say will be pollution from a foreign-owned gold mine project, Reuters reported.
Public opposition to the site owned by Doğu Biga Mining, the Turkish subsidiary of Canada-based Alamos Gold Inc, mounted after the firm allegedly cut down four times the number of trees than it declared in an environmental impact report.
Near the town of Kirazlı in Turkey’s Çanakkale province, a few dozen environmentalists have slept in tents since July 26 as part of what they call a “Watch for Water and Conscience.”
Activists say cyanide will be used to extract gold in the Alamos project and will contaminate the soil and waters of a nearby dam. The Turkish government rejects charges that the mine will damage the environment and denies cyanide will be used.
Some 5,000 protesters from across the country gathered on a hill near the planned mine site carrying signs reading “Don’t come if you like gold” and “We can do without gold, we can’t do without the Kaz Mountains.”
From there they walked to the project site where security forces were limited to a few dozen gendarmes, and they were allowed entry to a field on the property.
The mine will harm the ecological balance of a wooded region near Mount Ida — or Kaz, as it locally known — which produces huge amounts of oxygen and is home to diverse flora, said Rebiye Ünüvar, deputy mayor of Çanakkale.
“In six years, they will leave after this area becomes arid and is turned into a desert,” she said. “We will fight until the end to stop the eco-slaughter here.”
The Turkish Foundation for Reforestation, Protection of Natural Habitats and Combating Soil Erosion (TEMA), a charitable group focusing on forestry, said 195,000 trees were cut down for the project, well above the 46,000 target previously announced by Doğu Biga.
A statement by Doğu Biga said 13,400 trees had been cut down for the mine and that trees would re-planted in the area once work is completed. The company did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.