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Bergama Gold Mine, Turkey


Description:

Eurogold Gold Mining Company was founded in 1989 by French and Canadian multinational mining companies (Gokvardar 1998:137), following the requirements of the Mining Law of 1985 in Turkey. A prospecting permit in an area close to three villages of Bergama was obtained, aiming to establish the first modern gold mine in the country.

In later years the companys shares were sold to an Australian company (Orhon, 1999) and following this, in 2005, it was handed over to a domestic company named Koza Gold. The mining company takes cyanide leaching method as basic practise for its activities and dump the cyanide in an open waste pool. Since the location is an earthquake-prone zone and the negative effects of cyanide on nature, local peoples health as well as on agriculture (the regions main economic source) would turn out to be disastrous.

Bringing relatively prosperous peasants together with a small group of ambitious policy entrepreneurs, an activist movement, later known as Bergama Resistance, marked a turning point in environmental politics in Turkey. Motivated primarily by the environmental and public health risks posed by cyanide leaching, the peasant activists waged an unprecedented campaign that acted as a forceful reminder of the potential of social mobilization, carefully co-ordinated acts of civil disobedience, and the power of legal action to impart lasting change both at the local and national level. While the peasant activists failed at the end to stop the operation of the mine, their campaign made it possible to start a national discussion over the environmental costs of rapid economic growth in Turkey.

It is worth mentioning that the companys name Eurogold was a highly symbolic choice given Turkeys long standing and frustrated ambition to join the European Union.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Bergama Gold Mine, Turkey
Country:Turkey
Location of conflict:Bergama Ovacik, Narlica, Camkoy
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral processing
Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Specific commodities:Gold

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The extraction was planned to go on for 8 years and the company estimated a yearly production of 3 tonnes of gold and 3 tonnes of silver (Eurogold, 1998), using a combination of open-pit and underground mining techniques. Processing was also going to take place on site through cyanide leaching and a tailings pond would be constructed. For its operations, the company acquired land from local peasants, primarily from those based in Ovack, as well as receiving permits to operate on state-owned land from relevant authorities.

Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:1990
Company names or state enterprises:Newmont Mining Corporation from United States of America
Frontier Pacific from Canada
Normandy Mining Company from Australia
Koza Altin from Turkey
Relevant government actors:Prime Ministry, The Council of State, Turkish Scientific Research Institute
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Minewatch (UK), Mineral Policy Centre (MPC) (USA), Mineral Policy Institute (MPI), SOS-Pergamon group (Australia), FIAN (FoodFirst Information and Action Network), Pergamon and Adramytteion (PandA) Association

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Villagers, trade chambers
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
The movement established mutually supportive relationships with other left-leaning and nationalist movements in Turkey such as the one against the privatization of the Turkish Airlines.

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Noise pollution
Potential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Other Health impactsPoisoning of Land and Water
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impactsLoss of income

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Violent targeting of activists
Corruption
Institutional changes
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Repression
Compensation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Criminalization of activists
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New legislation
Prime Minister Ecevit, in a move clearly designed to find a legal opening to overcome the verdict of the highest administrative court of the nation, instructed to prepare an assessment of the risks of cyanide leaching. Turkish Scientific Institute (TUBITAK) came back with a report that ruled that cyanide leaching posed zero risks. While the activists denounced the report as unfair and one-sided and argued against its legal relevance, the government argued that the TBTAK report essentially neutralized the decision of the court and gave Eurogold the green light to operate. Failing to score a decisive legal victory in Turkey, the movement also took its case to the European Court of Human Rights. In its 2004 decision, the court found that the state of Turkey had indeed violated the activists procedural rights and awarded 3000 euros each to the 315 individuals taking part in the lawsuit. However, the ECHR refused to back the activists in their calls to order Turkey to shut down the mine.
Development of alternatives:The peasants mobilized over the risk of environmental damage rather than its actual experience. People were mainly asking for deliberative planning processes and a more democratized scientific culture that responds to genuine environmental concerns moulded by broad, historical sociocultural processes.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:In the environmental justice realm, Bergama constituted an example to other movements because of its high visibility and long resistance. Overall, the Bergama Resistance was a turning point for environmental politics in Turkey. It remains the largest and most effective civil society mobilization for environmental protection. Moreover, it has influenced national environmental policies, informed and inspired numerous other mobilizations that followed and popularized environmental politics at the national scale. Conversely, it has fallen short of its ultimate aim of preventing the operation of the gold mine against which the movement developed. Nevertheless, given its impact at the national scale, it can be considered as a success story.
By forcefully resisting at an early stage, the peasants were also able to force the company to make a number of salient technological changes before operations began, thus limiting the likelihood that environmental risk posed by cyanide leaching would actually be experienced.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

The Turkish Mining Law and EIA Law

Article 56 of the Turkish constitution which states that everyone has the right to live in a healthy, balanced environment, the court ruled in favour of the peasants. The decision stated that the environmental and public health risks of cyanide leaching amounted to a breach of peasants constitutional rights.

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Ozen, H. (2009) Located Locally, Disseminated Nationally: the Bergama Movement, Environmental Politics, 18: 3, pp. 408-423
http://goo.gl/kg3YL

Coban, A. (2003) Community-based Ecological Resistance: The Bergama Movement in Turkey. Environmental Politics 13(2), pp. 438-460.
http://kentcevre.politics.ankara.edu.tr/CobanEnvPolitics04.pdf

Arsel, M. (2005) Risking Development or Development Risks: Probing the Environmental Dilemmas of Turkish Modernization, PhD Dissertation, University of Cambridge

Arsel, M. (2005) The Bergama Imbroglio in Adaman, F. and Arsel, M. (eds.) Environmentalism in Turkey: Between Democracy and Development? Ashgate: Aldershot, pp. 263-275

Peasant Resistance of Bergama-Newspaper article,
http://www.spunk.org/texts/places/turkey/sp001775/

Hurriyet Newspaper article,
http://goo.gl/7AcG3

Bergama and environmentalists criticise Eurogold over mining intentions in Turkey,

Turks Fight Gold Mine, Saying Prospect Is Poison New York Times article,
http://www.nytimes.com/1997/04/16/world/turks-fight-gold-mine-saying-prospect-is-poison.html

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

A view of the mine, Evrensel newspaper,
http://www.evrensel.net/news.php?id=14890

http://arsiv.ntvmsnbc.com/news/134353.asp

Photos from the movement, NTVMSNBC website,
http://arsiv.ntvmsnbc.com/news/93991.asp

Meta information

Contributor:Zeynep Kadirbeyoglu
Last update18/08/2019