“We defend our right to live and we will not stand down. The police and gendarmerie protect the company’s vehicles, but the state should be standing with us,”Today’s Zaman quoted local activist and Green Artvin Association Head Nur Neşe Karahan as saying.
An estimated 2,000-3,000 locals rallied on Monday on the road to the site where the Cengiz Holding Mining Company is planning to cut down a virgin forest to start construction on gold and copper ore mines. Protesters blocked the road with about 300 private vehicles to prevent the mining company and police from entering the area with heavy equipment.
Two government ministers held a press conference Wednesday after a protest against the construction of a copper mine in northeastern Turkey evolved into an all-out riot over the past two days.
Protesters have blocked the road to a construction site for a planned copper mine in Cerattepe, a lush region engulfed with forests in the Black Sea province of Artvin. Protests turned into riots when police intervened to move the vehicles blocking the roads and rioters hurled rocks at police who detained several protesters.
Forestry and Water Affairs Minister Veysel Eroğlu and Environment and Urban Development Minister Fatma Güldemet Sarı held a joint press conference following the incident. Eroğlu said they took all necessary measures against the environmental impact of the project while Sarı said the copper would anyway be extracted underground and no new road would be built for transportation of copper from the mine, downplaying concerns that trees in the area would be chopped to build roads.
Ministers said the mining was given the green light only after a lengthy and detailed process to assess its environmental impact and if there was any case where trees would need to be removed, companies were obliged to plant three times more trees than the ones they cut off . The mining company will not be allowed to run a copper enrichment facility at the site and ordered to set up a pulley system to transport the extracted copper instead of trucks to minimize the damage to environment.