On the 16th of February, security forces began closing off an area for the construction of the big mine complex. Thousands of people gathered in a demonstration, including leaders and members of the BWI affiliated union Tarim Orman-Is (Civil Servants´ Union of Agriculture, Forestry, Husbandry and Environment) who work as civil servants in the Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs. Turkish security forces used tear gas canons on people after they refused to disperse and leave the site.
“Nature will have no mercy on us while taking back what we had stolen from her,” said one union member who participated in the protest.
The protests are continuing despite the police crackdown and a ban on people entering the provincial capital over the weekend. Union members of Tarim Orman-Is also continue to support the struggle even though they have been under heavy pressure not to join the demonstrations. The Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs has threatened the members to be appointed another duties and thus move to other cities without their will if they insist to support the protests.
Recently, the Turkish Prime Minister announced that the work at Cerattepe will be paused until a court decision and called for end to protests. However, it has been reported that the construction despite these promises is still underway and the protests are continuing.
The resistance against the mining company to defend the rich biodiversity in Cerattepe has been ongoing for many years. The district is recognized as one of the most important sites in Turkey and supply the whole region with drinking water. The mining will according to environmentalists pollute the water, which will harm both the people, animals, plants, forests in the area, and destroy the beautiful landscape.
In 2014 the company and government officials claimed that only 3500 trees were expected to be cut down. However, an administrative court ruling revealed that more than 50.000 trees are predicted to be cut down during the mine construction. The same ruling warned that water in the area which is used for agricultural irrigation may be polluted.
A 2014 court decision halted the company’s efforts and a 2015 decision rejected the Environmental Impact Report. In response, the company appealed the decision to the Council of State, which is the highest court for cases related to administrative law. Additionally, a new Environmental Impact Report was subsequently approved by the Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs in June 2015. Following this report, local people and associations set up a camp in the area to avoid the construction of a mine complex. Moreover, a lawsuit was signed by 61 lawyers with complaints of 105 pages and submitted with environmentalists.
In July 2015, Tarim Orman-Is visited the area and met locals and environmentalists to support their struggle and to obtain detailed information on the recent developments in Cerattepe.