August 9, 2019

“Against looting, socialism!” Say the Çanakkale people (Turkey) against Canadian Mining Corporation Alamos

Thousands protest against Alamos Gold Mining in Çanakkale
By Adrien Welsh 

It was with this rallying cry that activists from the Çanakkale branch of the Turkish Communist Party joined the thousands of demonstrators who stormed the site of the Kirazli gold mine project operated by the Canadian mining company Alamos. Despite a few altercations with security personnel, a human tide of thousands of protesters were determined to voice their opposition to the company caused deforestation and defeated the company's security agents. Once on the site, the event went off without a hitch, the protesters came among others to make an eminently symbolic gesture: planting trees.

According to the corporation’s website, this project “represents a significant near term source of low cost production growth. With its low capital and operating costs, Kirazli is one of the highest return, undeveloped gold projects in any gold price environment.”

While Alamos shareholders didn’t hide their enthusiasm in front of the profits potentially generated, the people however are the ones to pay the big price for this social and environmental catastrophe. If the project is so financially advantageous, it is because behind it, local people and workers in Turkey assume the costs. The CEO of the company reportedly told Bloomberg that the costs are reduced thanks to the devaluation of the Turkish lira, which contributes to significantly reduce the payroll. He even added that he did not have to hire foreign labor because "the Turks are very good at carrying rocks", joining with class depreciation a shameless racism.

But it's not so much the racist rhetoric or the working conditions in the future mine that set fire to the gunpowder, but rather the environmental scandal attached to it. The site of the open-air mining project is about 40 kilometers from the Kaz Mountains National Park, a protected area. However, several studies have revealed the harmful effects caused by the presence of this mine. For example, 195,000 trees have already been cut down just to access the minerals. But to this dramatic figure, we must add the mining activity, very polluting in itself because of the toxic materials necessary for gold extraction. It requires abundant amounts of cyanide (20,000 tons in this case). Along with it, large quantities of arsenic and heavy metals will litter the area once the company has completed the project without any decontamination of the site.

Air view of the mining site, where over 195,000 trees have been cut

If the residents and activists in the Çanakkale region oppose the company, they also fight against the Turkish government which, in the words of the TKP, acts as a law firm for the company. Shamefully, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is spreading false information - probably dictated by Alamos - about the impact the mining project will have, even making a fool of itself by saying that the mine is not in the national park area (while it is only 40 km from it) and reducing the number of trees that were felled in its report, despite the raw truth. This is completely paradoxical when we know that close to nothing will be left for the Turkish Government (96% of the minerals will continue being held by the corporation which will pay a 6% royalty to the state while paying for 40% of the investment in the project), showing how the local comprador bourgeoisie is complicit in this imperialist crime on one side and, on the other, how corporations need the help of local governments to achieve their « projects ». This is a clear case of imperialism.

This situation is a textbook case for Canadian mining. Turkey would not be the first government to bow to the power of those companies that, in the capitalist system, think they are all powerful. In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed are kings, they say.

Communits Party of Turkey (TKP) contingent at the August 5th protest
Mining companies headquartered in Canada represent 75% of the world's mining companies. They benefit from one of the lowest standards in the world and from Canadian diplomatic protection (or rather Canadian imperialism). For example, the Canadian International Development Agency helped force the Colombian government to rewrite its Mining Act of 2001, and mining companies hire mercenaries in Mexico and Guatemala, among other places, to literally murder social and labour leaders (often Indigenous people) who oppose their activities. Canada also invests in invasions of sovereign states as in Mali while claiming the 'responsibility to protect' that does not refer to anything but the responsibility to protect the interests of mining companies. Every Canadian mining venture leads to an ecological disaster: systematically, companies do not take responsibility for waste left "deep in the pit", adding to the social conflict a climatic one.

But the case of Kizli is particular (but not unique) because of the strong mobilization of the local population, a mobilization that does not seem ready to fade. Not surprisingly, there is barely any word about this Canadian mining scandal in the corporate media in Canada.

Of course, while this same press does not hesitate to promote the climate marches and to make Greta Thunberg a standard-bearer of the green cause, when it comes to denouncing "our" imperialism, it is much more cautious ... It is also less vocal when it comes to revealing the systemic nature of the environmental crisis and its links with the crimes of capitalism and imperialism.

Yet the case of Kizli, and this is undoubtedly why it deserves our attention and our solidarity with the demonstrators, shows clearly that imperialism and capitalism are the main causes responsible for the environmental crisis, not youth or peoples.

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