Gold turns Turkish villagers green

Environmentalists in Turkey are a lonely lot. Governments know that Turks tend to be more interested in getting a job than saving the earth. Environmental issues are skirted by politicians of all hues, and Turkey's motley Green Party recently closed down. To add to the gloom, when a court recently ordered a controversial power station, plonked by a pine-clad Mediterranean bay, to suspend operations, the decision was overruled by ministers in Ankara.

Prospects for green-minded Turks are brightening, though. At Bergama, 20 miles inland from from the Aegean coast so beloved of European holidaymakers, an alliance of farmers, local politicians and friendly media companies is propelling Turkey's first environmental movement. The villains are executives at Eurogold, a company formed - by Canadian, French and Australian backers - to exploit Turkey's still untapped gold reserves. The issue is cyanide which Eurogold wants to use to recover the gold from heavy metals which lie around it.

Eurogold may have been unlucky to hit on gold on the lip of a valley - at Ovacik, 10 miles from Bergama - full of villages. They were downright foolish, though, to neglect public relations - a mistake, opponents argue, they would not have made in western Europe. Foremost among these opponents is Sefa Taskin. Bergama's impish mayor has cleverly donned green, and persuaded local farmers to pester deputies in Ankara and parade through Bergama in their underwear to publicise their cause. Villagers too lazy to join in have been yanked into line by decidedly emancipated wives. The campaign is now so fashionable, a group of Volkswagen Beetle owners is supporting it.

For all the protest's unexpected modishness, though, it was only recently that Mr Taskin scored his first major victory. In May, a court in the capital recommended that Eurogold's mining permit be revoked on environmental grounds. While both sides wait nervously for a local court to accept or reject this recommendation, Eurogold's investment - $30m to date - has begun to look unwise. To all except Eurogold, that is; armed with permits from no less than 12 ministries, the mining company is busy developing its site. Eurogold insists that the mine at Ovacik will be operational before the end of this year.

The inhabitants of Camkoy, half a mile from the barbed wire surrounding the site, are equally insistent that it will not. A handful unwise enough to accept jobs with Eurogold have been firmly ostracised, and the determination of environmentalists is inscribed in stone - a marble plaque at the entrance to the village reminds visitors of opposition from 17 villages. Polat Bektas, a habitue of the local cafe, remarks: "We are ready to die to ensure that the environment is not sullied." This is not the activism of Istanbul sophisticates, but a popular protest. "Never again," says Mr Bektas, "will foreign mining companies think of Turks as ignorant villagers."

At Ovacik the environment is only half the issue, the others being politics and economics. According a lawyer working on behalf of the farmers, the area boasts 5,000 "militants" prepared to stop the mine starting production. This, understandably, does not cheer Turkey's new government, which likes mining and votes in roughly equal measures. Ministers worry that, should the local court shut the mine down, Eurogold will open a big compensation suit, and others will be put off from entering Turkey's fledgling gold mining sector. While Ovacik waits for its cyanide, and the mining industry for the court's verdict, politicians - both local and national - are holding their breath.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test