Turkey Faces Grave Threat of Cyanide Leaks from Gold Mines

Turkey has become the biggest producer of gold in Europe, owing to rapid developments in technology and facilities over the past two decades. It produced a total of 42 tonnes of gold last year, up from 1.4 tonnes when it just started gold production in 2001. However, one particular gold mine in Turkey has become the heated subject of protest due to the use of toxic cyanide.

In the outskirts of a small town in the North-Western province of Çanakkale, Turkey in 2019, thousands staged a massive protest against potential pollution from a foreign-owned gold mine project. The site is owned by Doğu Biga Mining, the Turkish subsidiary of Canada-based Alamos Gold Inc.. Activists believe that cyanide will be used to extract gold in the project and will contaminate the soil and waters of a nearby dam. Cyanide could leak into a water basin shared with the Atikhisar Dam, which is 14km from the mine and the sole water supply for 180,000 people.

Although Alamos Gold has insisted there will be no leaks or spills, protestors are highly sceptical about the claim. Despite the protests, the mine construction is slated to continue.

Previously, Doğu Biga Mining allegedly cut down four times the number of trees than it declared in an environmental impact report, mounting public opposition against the site. Furthermore, Alamos Gold has a bad track record — two of their mines in Mexico reportedly caused cyanide contamination and a preventable landslide. However, in Turkey, the government supports the use of cyanide to process and separate gold from ore. Although cyanide spills have already taken place at other mining sites, local municipalities have tried to cover up its severity.

The continued use of cyanide in gold extraction in Turkey, coupled with Turkey’s positive stance towards use of the toxic chemical, will have serious implications on the environment and public health. Furthermore, with attempts to cover up cyanide spills, the negative impacts could very well spiral out of control. When government regulations fall short, companies should take the initiative to review and adjust their operations for the better.

The risks associated with cyanide use in gold mining can be mitigated by adopting an alternative gold recovery agent. Clean Mining, a part of Clean Earth Technologies, has the answer — a new mineral processing technology that eliminates toxic cyanide and mercury in the gold recovery process.

Developed for more than a decade by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, the solution uses a non-toxic gold recovery agent, benefiting both human health and the health of the environment. This gold recovery agent is applicable to a range of ores for responsible mining operators.

Clean Mining’s technology is particularly attractive to socially and environmentally responsible junior producers who don’t want the compliance and rehabilitation costs associated with cyanide. Adopting this technology is a win-win for gold mining companies — they can be environmentally-friendly and reduce their costs at the same time.

The elimination of cyanide in gold mining will go a long way in safeguarding the environment, especially the living environments of people.


Clean Mining is part of the Clean Earth Technologies group.


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