Controversy over proposed gold mine in Murat Mountain
By Osman Cakli
The Anadolu Export Company, owned by Bahattin Ozal, has once again applied to the Ministry of Environment, Urbanization, and Climate Change for permission to begin gold exploration in Murat Mountain, between Kutahya and Usak provinces. Following the company's application, the Ministry temporarily suspended the project's documentation and began collecting objections.
Despite the company's persistent efforts, the gold mining proposal faces fierce opposition from various quarters, including local villagers, environmental activists, and several municipalities, including the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality, Eskisehir Municipality, Gediz Municipality (affiliated with the AKP [Justice and Development Party]), and Usak Municipality.
Recent research by the TEMA Foundation shows that 80% of Uşak and a staggering 91% of Kutahya are licensed to explore fourth-group mines, including gold, silver, and nickel.
Historically, the Anadolu Export started its mining processes in these regions in 2013. Taking advantage of a loophole in the legal framework, the company divided the land into plots smaller than 25 hectares, which allowed it to bypass the mandatory environmental impact assessment (EIA). However, this tactic ended in 2017 when the company applied for an operating license for a sprawling 500 hectares, prompting the Ministry to give the application an "EIA positive" designation.
Opposition to the Anadolu Export's mining ambitions grew more robust in 2019, with several protests breaking out in both cities. Environmental groups and surrounding villages mobilized and sued the Ministry's decision. The legal battle culminated in the Kutahya Administrative Court overturning the positive EIA report. On appeal, the 6th Chamber of the Council of State upheld the cancellation.
In recent years, the Anadolu Export has revised its previous EIA application and submitted a new one to the Ministry. The Ministry has since accepted and suspended the dossier.
Alarmingly, recent assessments highlight the profound ecological effects of the proposed mine. Proposed mining activities could ruin important underground water sources in the area, warns Funda Oz Akcura, spokesperson for the No Destruction of Murat Mountain Platform.
The AKP mayor of Usak, Mehmet Cakın, said they are against the mine and will take legal action if needed. The company's proposal to use 7 tons of dynamite 26 days per month for five years exacerbates fears of water contamination and the potential for earthquakes in an already vulnerable area.
The environmental costs are enormous and involve cutting down 212,000 trees in a 166-hectare area, which will change the region's ecological balance.
As the debate intensifies, advocates such as Prof. Dr. Barıs Metin of the TEMA Foundation underscore the gravity of the situation, stating that the mine threatens the lives and livelihoods of 15 million people. They stress that the mountain's rich water resources are essential for countless species, and its destruction could lead to catastrophic water shortages for millions.
With 80% of Usak's land licensed for mining, the outcome of this battle between the Anadolu Export and the united front of concerned citizens, environmentalists, and communities will undoubtedly shape the region's environmental and socio-economic future.