Deforestation can occur for different reasons such as clearing areas for manufacturing and agriculture, making tools and mining for gold, etc. At the end of the day, deforestation ends up ignoring the people’s needs and generating profit for a select group.

Recently the deforestation of the Ida Mountains by a gold mining company attracted big public attention through the social media in Turkey. The mining companies claimed that it was a good thing, however in my personal view and the view of many activists, no matter the reason, the mass murder of the forest creates so many other problems that the new ‘benefits’ such as greater profit do not even begin to rival the benefits that were present before the clear-cutting. 

The region is known for its richness of natural sources and minerals, as well as its status as a self-sustaining ecosystem. Being gifted with such an endemic flora and fauna, the conservation of the area is critical. However, the irresponsible actions of both the companies and the governments in letting the companies mine resulted in the mass destruction of the forest and therefore the diversity of the species. The estimated number for the cut-down trees is 195.000, which means that approximately 220,49ha(2.204.900m2) has been turned into bare soil. The numbers are devastating but the actions of governments are so minimal they are essentially doing nothing. 

One of the things that disappoints me greatly is on top of minimal physical efforts to stop this, many governments, such as those of Turkey and Canada, the country I was born in and the country I have lived in for the past two years, also manipulates numbers to make it seem as though this has minimal effect on the people and the planet. The liability of the governments is critical, and both governments of Turkey and Canada promised to follow up on eco-friendly actions and policies. Unfortunately, both of the countries have failed on the issue by starting the process yet taking no real action to stop the mining. 

This failure to take action not only affects the planet but the people too. For example, In Turkey, the mining takes place in rural areas consisting mostly of small villages. Most of the people depend economically on the natural sources in the mountains. The mining company, Alamos Gold, has the full ownership of the project, which is expected to make 4 billion dollars. The villagers not only gain no profit from the project, but they are losing out on resources they could use to turn a profit, or what’s more likely, resources they would use to help sustain their lifestyle and livelihood. 

Another concern for the villagers is that the area is their only source of clean water. The distance between the Atikhisar reservoir and the Project is only 14km. As a result, there are concerns about the use of cyanide, which according to the WHO is linked to disease outbreaks. As the reservoir and the project are so close there is a high chance that the cyanide will affect the water. The company published that the cyanide will be used in the final step of the process, continuing on with promising that there will be no effect in the area. However, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine, people who live near a site that uses cyanide have a higher chance may be exposed to higher levels than the general population.  On top of that, this company has lied before. An example of this is that although the authorities have given permission for a clear cut of only 45,000 trees, numbers have almost reached up to 200,000. 

The confirmation about the safety of the use of cyanide reminded me of how Titanic was not supposed to sink, Cherynobil was not supposed to blow, and oil ships were not to get into accidents. But we all know what happened… right?

Nevertheless The CEO of Alamos Gold, John McCluskey, said that the company has already paid for the permits to cut the 200,000 trees and also had enough to cover for their replantation. But that brings us to a different moral question altogether. Does that mean nature, history, and culture are something that can be destroyed and then pieced together with money? No. Every single tree matters and every single one of them gives life to other organisms. They may be replanted, but the ecosystem will still have to adapt to its new “temporary” look without trees and the other organisms that were destroyed in the process. 

Despite it all, at the end of the day, we can look at the positives. I can still see positive steps being taken, either by the public or by the increased activity by members of eco-alliances towards partnering people who mindfully think and care about today and the future. 

Eylül Taş

About Eylül Taş