A peaceful but unusually large protest was held on the outskirts of the northwestern Turkish province of Canakkale, against a foreign-owned gold mine project, Reuters reported on Monday.
Tens of thousands of protesters staged the event on Monday, called “Watch for Water and Conscience”, near the town of Kirazli, against the gold mine project owned by Dogu Biga Mining, the Turkish subsidiary of Canada-based Alamos Gold Inc.
Dozens of environmentalists slept in tents in the area from July 26, as public opposition to the project mounted after the company allegedly cut down four times the number of trees than it declared in an environmental impact report.
According to TEMA, a Turkish charitable group focusing on forestry, approximately 195,000 trees were cut down for the mining project after Dogu Biga stated that they planned to cut only 46,000.
It was also claimed by an activist that cyanide will be used to extract gold in the Alamos Gold project, which could contaminate the soil and water in a nearby dam.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party (AKP) government denied that cyanide will be used and has rejected claims that the mine will damage the environment.
Ulgur Gokhan, Canakkale mayor from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), called on citizens of the province to attend the protest of the planned gold mine.
“This is a protest to save the Ida Mountains (Kazdaglari) of Canakkale. Ida Mountains are the second in the world that produces so much oxygen,” the mayor pointed out in a video posted on his official Twitter account.
Büyük Su ve Vicdan Nöbeti buluşması
📆 5 Ağustos 2019
⏰11.00'da Kirazlı-Balaban'da gerçekleşecek.
Tüm kentlilerimizi ve kalbi burada bizlerle atan herkesi Dünya mirası Kazdağlarımızın geleceğine sahip çıkmak için mücadeleye davet ediyoruz.#KazDağlarıHepimizin pic.twitter.com/KJJGKlXRaO
— Ülgür GÖKHAN 🇹🇷 (@BSKulgurgokhan) August 1, 2019
The area produces massive amounts of oxygen as it has a diverse flora. After a press statement was read out, thousands of demonstrators from across Turkey marched towards the construction site where the trees have been cut down, holding placards that read, “Don’t come if you like gold” and “We can do without gold, we can’t do without the Kaz Mountains.”
The citizens chanted “The oath of Ida Mountains,” which was penned by environmental activists for the occasion.
Representatives from ecology associations, non-governmental organizations, national and international news outlets, as well as environmental activists and famous figures were among those who attended the protest.
Among the attendees were CHP Vice-chairmen Muharrem Erkek, Orhan Saribal and Veli Agbaba, and 14 other lawmakers from the party.
The group concluded the gathering by symbolically planting saplings in the area of the planned gold mine project and left the site applauding in protest.
Supporters of Erdogan’s AKP as well as government officials argue that mega infrastructure projects, such as Istanbul’s new airport and a third bridge across the Bosphorus Strait, will help the country that is spiraling into a deep economic crisis.
They also hold forth that mining projects are necessary for Turkey to lessen its dependence on imports by using its own natural resources, also helping lower its current account deficit.
However, protesters and environmental activists say that preserving the environment for future generations is of utmost importance.
A petition launched by TEMA on change.org against the gold mining project has gathered more than 340,000 signatures in less than a month.
Between 2012 and 2017, Turkey’s ruling AKP government approved 36,122 mining, energy and other projects located on a total of 246,257 hectares of woodland, according to the data released by the Foresters Foundation of Turkey.