Blog Entry

Fears of Contamination of Drinking Water of Turkey’s Third Largest City Fuel Opposition to Eldorado Gold’s Efemçukuru Mine

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

By Üstün B. Reinart for the Aegean Environmental Platform

(Turkey) Community groups, professional associations, and environmentalists want Eldorado Gold out of Efemçukuru, Izmir, while the company manœvres behind closed doors to illegally increase capacity three-fold.

Eldorado Gold Corp (through its Turkish arm Tuprag) is operating a controversial gold mine at Efemçukuru, near Izmir, Turkey. Efemçukuru is near a village known for its olive groves, vineyards, forests, and organic agriculture, on a hillside behind the city of Izmir.

Efemçukuru is within the catchment area of Tahtali dam that provides 40% of Izmir’s drinking water, and within the “protected” basin of streams running into a planned second dam, Camli, that was to provide drinking water for 250,000 people in the towns and villages nearby. (Camli Dam was already planned when the Ministry of the Environment issued a mine permit to Eldorado. The Ministry subsequently rejected the Environmental Impact Assessment of the dam).

The mine project has been controversial from the beginning, and faced strong opposition from community, scientists, and environmentalists.

Despite serious warnings, the gold mine been operating since June 2011, and has applied for a permit to increase its capacity*. The Environmental Impact Assessment for the capacity increase has been approved by the Ministry of the Environment.

Several professional associations, the Chamber of Physicians and Surgeons, and the Aegean Coalition for the Environment launched a lawsuit against the application on April 24, 2013. Experts called in for discovery during the trial found that the water and soil in the region were already contaminated with arsenic and other heavy metals. The court ruled against the mining company on April 16, 2015.

Yet, disregarding the court decision, on August 20, 2015, Eldorado and the Turkish Ministry of the Environment jointly held an Evaluation Commission meeting to discuss the capacity increase, where they refused entry to a public health specialist and a deputy from an opposition party who asked to attend as community representatives.

The contamination of soil and water by the mine have already been established by the court. The Efemçukuru mine should be closed immediately. Talking behind closed doors about an increase of the mine’s capacity not only represents blatant disregard for the law, it also means greatly increased risk to the drinking water supply of the third largest city in Turkey.

*According to the proposal for the capacity increase, the total gold to be mined goes up from 2.5 tons to 8.5 tons; the period of activity goes up from 12 years to 17 years; the waste to be left on site goes up from 660,000 tons to 3,200,000 tons; the surface area covered by this debris will go up from 4.74 hectares to 12.32 hectares; and the amount of dry tailings will go up from 2.2 million tons to 8 million tons, with the area it covers to go up from 7.67 hectares to 16.18 hectares.