Turkey: Win for workers struggling to save the forests in Cerattepe

The mining project that risks destroying the forests, jobs and water for the people in the Artvin province in Turkey has been halted following a court decision. The local people and members of the union TARIM ORMAN-IS who have supported the struggle is celebrating a big victory after the Council of State in July rejected an expert report that claimed that they would be able to protect the environment while mining.

Since 2012, the Turkish company “Cengiz Holding” has tried to mine gold, silver and copper in “Cerattepe”, a small district of Artvin province in northern Turkey. Local people have been resisting the mining plans to protect the natural resources in their village with the support of various NGOs and political parties. The forestry workers’ union and BWI affiliate TARIM ORMAN-IS has supported the struggle in the area since the beginning of the resistance. More than 6600 people signed the online petition that the union initiated to protect workers’ rights and environment in Cerattepe.

In December 2014, 264 complainants, including lawyers, associations, political parties, Green Artvin Association and TARIM ORMAN-IS, opened a case against the Environmental Impact Report which claimed that there are effective methods to protect ecologic conditions while mining. In 2015, the local court rejected the report that favored mining activities. Following this, the company appealed the decision to the Council of State — the highest court of cases related to administrative law — and requested a new Environmental Impact Report. These reports are prepared by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation to assess the environmental impacts in order to reinforce or prevent the implementation of such projects.

In July 2016, the Council of State finally approved the local court’s rejection of the first Environmental Impact Report which means that the project is halted. Unfortunately, the decision does not mean that the mining project is cancelled completely. As the company has a new Environmental Impact Report which supports the mining activities in the area, a new case was opened in June 2015 with 751 complainants for the rejection of the second report — the biggest environmental case in Turkey. Therefore, people are now waiting for the final decision for this ongoing court case and hope that this will also be ended with a verdict similar to the decision of the Council of State to block mining efforts in Cerattepe.

The struggle for workers’ rights and natural resources has gained strength and addition to the abovementioned decision, the pressure on forest workers in Cerattepe has also been removed with the help of support from all over the world. In this regard, TARIM ORMAN-IS, Green Artvin Association and the BWI would like to thank all supporters who signed the campaign and showed their solidarity.