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Radioactive contamination from an old uranium mine, Köprübaşı province, Turkey


Outside Turkey, the work of attorney Arif Ali Cangi for a "nuclear free world" has been recognised. One of his most recent cases for a "nuclear free Turkey" involves the villages of Kesir Jörprübasi/Manisa and Kisir Söke Aydin. In the 1970s and 1980s the Turkish government prospected for and mined uranium across the country. Near the first village the government authorities established a facility where uranium ore was turned into yellow cake. Later the contaminated site was abandoned without any safety measures. The local population knew nothing about the hazards they were exposed to. (1).

The uranium mine in the Koprubasi district of Manisa was operating from 1970 for 10 years until it was abandoned in 1980. A peer-reviewed academic publication in 2008 and a related report by Professor Ahmet Sasmaz from the Firat University Geology Department put forward that the surrounding area was under heavy contamination of radioactive material due to uranium heap leaching techniques applied in the mining site, which involves dissolving uranium (with acid or base exposure) in the ground and pumping the solution to the surface. Another study earlier in 2004 has already proved that the radiation levels in the region were above acceptable levels. The study associated the findings with the inaction related to the remainders of uranium mine and a potential spill-over effect due to grazing animals and high exposure to rain and underground water. Other studies also identified remarkably high incidence of cancer cases in villages alongside the river crossing the region. After the abandonment of the mine in 1980, no party has taken any measure towards refinement and rehabilitation of the site even though the authorities were aware of the spreading danger. The said studies detected radiation levels in the area up to 140 times as high as acceptable levels for radiation according to multiple international authorities including World Health Organization (WHO) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). As of today, several open pits remain open to public access with great radioactive danger despite continuous warning by scientific agencies and academics.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Radioactive contamination from an old uranium mine, Köprübaşı province, Turkey
State or province:Köprübaşı
Location of conflict:Manisa
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Nuclear
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Uranium extraction
Specific commodities:Uranium

Project Details and Actors

Project details

In 2008, the measurements were made in the closest village - the village of Kasar - to the mining site, where the Gamma-Scout detector indicated 0,200 µSv/h radiation level. The value increased gradually up to 16 µSv/h as the researchers got closer to the mining site. As a comparison, the radiation level in the Fukushima was detected as 40 µSv/h high and the effect of Chernobyl disaster in the Black sea coast of Turkey was measured only at 0,50 µSv/h.

Type of populationRural
Affected Population:13,500
Start of the conflict:01/01/1970
Company names or state enterprises:General Directorate of Mineral Research and Exploration from Turkey - Project-runner
Relevant government actors:Mazlum Nurlu - Member of Parliament from the major opposition party, Republican People's Party (CHP) has brought the topic to the regular parliamentary meetings.
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Greenpeace Turkey
Nuclear-Free Future Awards

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stageLATENT (no visible resistance)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Violations of human rights


Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Repression
Under negotiation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Authorities have not taken any corrective action so far and except a couple of media articles and press releases no public resistance has formed in the face of great radioactive danger.

Sources & Materials

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

Nuclear Technology Information Database Press Release (Tr)

Where are the measures? (Tr)

Greenpeace 'Exposure of Nuclear Scandal' (Tr)

Nuclear Scandal (Tr)

Nuclear Scandal on the parliament's agenda (Tr),249050

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

The Nuclear-Free Future Award - für eine Zukunft frei von Atomwaffen, Atomenergie und Uranmunition

Radioactive measurements in the area (Tr)

Award to attorney Cangi, in Johannesburg Nov. 2016.

Other comments:The recent discussion in Turkey on this old uranium mine must be set in the context of debates on nuclear energy in the difficult political situation of 2016, 2017. An international public figure active in the discussion is attorney Arif Ali Cangi.
He was awarded the Nuclear-Free Future Awards 2016 in Johannesburg 17 Nov. 2016. Arif Ali Cangi was born in 1964 in the province of Mersin, is a leading jurist in the Turkish anti-nuclear movement. He has fought court battles against the illegal dumping of nuclear waste in Gaziemir, Izmir, against the construction of a nuclear power plant in Akkuyu, Mersin, and against the deadly environmental contamination brought on by uranium mining at Köprübasi, Manisa. Cangi currently spearheads legal proceedings to block the construction of the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant on the Mediterranean coast between Aydıncık and Silifke. The first plans for the Akkuyu NPP were drawn up in the early seventies, only to be shelved. The current Turkish government resurrected the old plans, and recently entered into an agreement with Russian Rosatom to begin construction of the plant. On behalf of the Green Party and the Leftist Future Party (YSGP), Arif Ali Cangi has gone to court to block the plant's construction. This aside, Cangi has also lodged an environmental complaint against the former operators of the uranium mine in Köprübasi. The mine was active in the 1970s and 1980s, but the site was never remediated after shutdown, nor the local citizenry ever informed about the radioactive contamination.

Meta information

Contributor:Burag Gurden, European Environmental Bureau, [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2914



Measurements in the area