Turkish police fire tear gas on gold mine protestors

Turkish police fired tear gas Wednesday to disperse hundreds of protesters trying to prevent a gold mine from being built in an ecologically pristine area in the Black Sea region, an AFP photographer said.

There has been a growing standoff over plans by the Cengiz Holding conglomerate to build the mine in the Artvin region on the Black Sea.

Environmental activists have put up barricades, set rubbish bins on fire and made bonfires with tree branches in a bid to block construction work.

Meanwhile, police have sent reinforcements to the centre of the protests in the Cerrattepe district of Artvin to ensure the movement does not escalate further.

The chief executive of Cengiz Holding is the tycoon Mehmet Cengiz, who is seen as a close ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“The people of Artvin are showing an extraordinary resistance,” said Green Artvin Association head Nese Karahan, quoted by the Dogan news agency. Karahan was detained by police as well as several others, it added.

At least one protester was wounded, reports said.

Reports said that locals had parked vehicles in key locations and on the hills to ensure the heavy vehicles of Cengiz Holding are not able to begin work on the project.

The area close to the border with Georgia is seen as one of the most environmentally important in the country with its wet climate creating a lush landscape of extraordinary beauty.

Erdogan and the Turkish government are very wary of environmentally-motivated protests after grassroots demonstrations in 2013 against the redevelopment of Gezi Park in Istanbul’s Taksim Square snowballed into an uprising against his rule.

The plan for the gold mine in Artvin had initially been blocked by the Turkish judiciary following complaints from ecological groups.

But it was finally approved after environmental impact reports gave the go-ahead to the project.

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