Blog Entry

Take Action To Protect the Ida Mountains, Turkey

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

Sponsored by Ecological Union and Friends of Ida Mountains

The Ida mountain range and Mount Ida itself (Kazdaği, in Turkish, home to the ancient city of Troy), have been subject to gold mining interests in recent years. Since 2010, Canadian company Alamos Gold has been seeking to develop gold mines there in the face of determined local and nation-wide opposition. The Government of Canada claims that it is "committed to promoting responsible business practices; and expects and encourages Canadian companies working internationally to respect human rights and all applicable laws, to meet or exceed international RBC [responsible business conduct] guidelines and standards, to operate transparently and in consultation with host governments and local communities, and to conduct their activities in a socially and environmentally sustainable manner." The presence of Alamos Gold and its affiliates on the site is unlawful, unethical, and damaging to Canada’s image and reputation as a responsible global actor. See the attached backgrounder.

Use the form below to write to Canada's Ambassador to Turkey, Jamal Khokhar, to ask him to urge Alamos Gold to withdraw completely from the Kazdaği region and evacuate all of its staff and equipment from the area.

The mining licences that Alamos Gold had previously acquired in the Kazdagi region expired on October 13, 2019: however, the company has continued to occupy the area – which is adjacent to a popular nature reserve – and continues to deny access to residents and visitors. There is no legal basis for the presence and continuing operations of the company in this area. 

Alamos Gold has also consistently violated the terms of its original licence. The area is covered by forest that includes valuable old growth, connected to an adjacent national park and other natural conservation areas, including seed stand zones, and archæological preservation zones. The original licence limited the area to be cleared to less than 48,000 trees whereas, to date, almost 360,000 have been cut. The company has also diverted water for its own use despite the fact that its licence did not permit drawing water from public reservoirs.

In addition, the company plans to use open pit mining techniques with cyanide heap leaching to extract gold from the ore. This is high risk and there are generally accepted standards and protocols to be followed subject to oversight and supervision. To date, the company has not shown that it has taken the measures necessary to prevent leakage and has not shown that it has sufficiently trained its own staff to observe commonly accepted safe mining practices. Recent history of the mining industry reveals that accidents that have devastating impact on the environment are not uncommon.

In Bergama, Turkey, at a mining operation by Eurogold (a Canadian/Australian partnership) mismanaged operations resulted in sulphur and cyanide contamination of underground water sources and rivers in November 1996. At Baia Mare, Romania, in April 2000, the Somes River was contaminated by a cyanide spill from retention ponds. More recently, massive mine waste disasters at Mount Polley, British Columbia, in August 2014, and in Brazil at Samarco in November, 2015, and Brumadinho in January, 2019, with massive loss of life, have shown that these risks are growing in severity and prevalence.

Pressure from civil society and institutional investors has forced the mining industry to develop the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management, which unfortunately does not meet the criteria developed by civil society and independent experts (Safety First: Guidelines for Responsible Mine Tailings Management). These accidents happen through negligence, lack of expertise and deliberate cost cutting. The resident population has to live with the consequences with little or no recourse, and there is no indication that Alamos Gold has committed to and prepared to implement best practices, nor that it has – or will be required to – set aside the necessary funds. Even though the company has stated various times that it is determined to restore the land after mining operations end, there is no indication that sufficient funds have been budgeted and placed in escrow.

We request that the Canadian government and foreign officers abroad take action against Canadian entities that are in violation of local/national laws regardless of the local enforcement action and declare to both these companies and their local affiliates that unlawful behaviour by Canadian entities would be unacceptable and does real harm to Canada’s global standing and relationships.

Public opinion surveys conducted by Metropoll in September 2019, a month before the licences expired, clearly underscore the overwhelming opposition to the mining activities in the area.

The key questions and the responses from the area residents are shown below:

Q.1) Do you agree with the statement “For the sake of economic development ecological damage at Ida Mountains may be acceptable.”?

Agree 5.5% — Disagree 84.9% — Undecided 9.6%

Q.2) Do you agree with the statement “For the sake of economic development, regulations on the conservation of forests may be relaxed.”?

Agree 6.6% — Disagree 84.3% — Undecided 9.2%

Q.3) Do you agree with the statement “If there will be an increase in employment, the damage that domestic and foreign companies may cause to the environment may be tolerated.”?

Agree 7.0% — Disagree 83.2% — Undecided 9.8%

Local opposition to the mining operation and to Alamos Gold has only stiffened since its licences expired, with the company still continuing to operate.

The Canadian government and its representatives need to engage with the company to effect an immediate end to its operations and the withdrawal of all company assets from the area.

Gold Mining Projects in Çanakkale, Turkey, and their Potential Impacts