Turkish government opens olive groves to mining

In a decree published in the country’s Official Gazette, the Turkish government has said that mining activities can be carried out on olive groves as long as the land is “rehabilitated” afterwards. Many say this will permanently destroy the groves.

Duvar English

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government on March 1 released a decree in the Official Gazette stating that mining activities can be carried out on olive groves. The practice was previously banned, as experts warned of the detrimental effect it could have on the trees and the land.

The decision says that the groves must be “rehabilitated and restored” after any mining. However, opposition figures and activists warn that this is “looting” and that it will lead to widespread environmental destruction.

The decision made by the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources stated that mining activities could be carried out directly in privately owned fields with the Ministry's permission, provided that those responsible cover all costs of the mining - including destruction. The decision also states they must replace any olive trees destroyed and return the grove to its original state.

However, in many cases this is impossible. Many olive trees are hundreds, if not thousands, of years old and have been held in families for generations.

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) MP Süleyman Bülbül, representing the province of Aydın, called this decision criminal. He said that the decision was completely counter to the already-established “Olive Protection Law,” which aims to protect both olive trees and olive producers.

“Regulations exist to ensure their implementation. Regulations that violate the Constitution and laws cannot be issued. This is against legal norms,” he said.

He further stated that olives, critical to the Mediterranean region, were being sacrificed for the benefit of miners. Many mining companies are connected to the government and are also very active in the Mediterranean region.

“With this regulation, mining companies will now plunder olive groves without hesitation. This regulation will open a new door to the gangs of the government,” Bülbül was quoted as saying by daily Birgün

He further pointed out that the damage done by government projects destructive to the environment can already be seen in the region. 85% of Aydın was opened to geothermal power plants by presidential decree; after that, olive and fig groves in the region dried up.

“Instead of compensating for these damages caused by wrong energy and agricultural policies, the AKP government also invites mining companies. It almost paves the way for olive groves to become roads. This is unacceptable,” he said.