Government forces have reportedly dispersed a crowd of protesters in the Cerattepe region of the north-eastern province of Artvin. The protesters have been active in the region since June 21, attempting to disrupt a copper mining project planned in the area.
A joint police and jandarma force disrupted the protests at 11.30 AM on Tuesday February 16. The government forces reportedly used tear gas and plastic bullets to disperse the crowd, and a number of protesters have been reported as injured.
The government convoy also included a number of armoured vehicles and tow trucks to remove nearly 300 protestor vehicles that had been obstructing the road leading to the mining site.
Cerattepe is one of the most notable regions for wildlife in Turkey. All of the drinking water used by the Artvin province is retrieved from the Cerattepe region, and the region also includes a number of wildlife reserves and the Hatina National Park. The Kafkasör plateau and the Genya mountain located in the Cerattepe region are some of the most diverse regions for plant life in the world.
The people of Artvin have been trying to block efforts to develop mining project in the region for years. The region, featuring a number of mining resources including gold, copper, zinc, and silver, has captured the attention of a number of mining companies over the past decade.
Environmental reports concerning the potential effects of the mining project on the region’s wildlife have been inconsistent. In January 2015, the national Environmental Impact Assessment department determined that the planned copper mining project in area would “render the city center of Artvin unlivable.” However, The Cengiz Holding Firm heading up the copper mining project reapplied for an environmental impact assessment and the decision was overturned soon after. The people of Artvin have been holding round-the-clock protests since then.
Lawyer and member of the Green Artvin Association Bedrettin Kalın commented on the police disruptions of the protests, claiming “At this point, there is no legal or logical justification for the police disruptions of the protests. As long as our unity continues, I know the people of Artvin will give an appropriate response to these actions.”
CHP Artvin parliamentary representative Uğur Bayraktutan encouraged the people of Artvin to maintain the protests, stating “I invite the people of Artvin to claim their rights to their own living spaces, to their place of birth. Today is an important test for the people of Artvin. Here we don’t have party or political divisions. We are all the children of Artvin. Let’s claim ownership over our city of birth.”