Mina de oro a tajo abierto dentro de red natura 2000 tiene insomnes a los búlgaros

Publicado en por Ivonne Leites. - Atea y sublevada.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plans for Gold Mine Divide Bulgarians.

 El oro se encuentra en la región Krumovgrad, parte de la la Red Natura 2000, la red de áreas ambientalmente sensibles protegidas por la Unión Europea. De las 191 especies de aves en Bulgaria, el 46% se encuentran aquí, así como la mitad de las especies de reptiles, anfibios y mamíferos. Pero el Ministro del Ambiente dice que no hay problema… CUALQUIER PARECIDO CON OLLANTA HUMALA Y SU MINISTRO DEL AMBIENTE ES PURA COINCIDENCIA… el depósito previsto de residuos mineros – hasta 14,6 millones de toneladas de roca estéril y 7,2 millones de toneladas de relaves se acumularía a unos 150 pasos del río, en los nueve años de vida de la mina.

 

MINA DE ORO DIVIDE A LOS BÚLGAROS

En el borde de Europa, en el sureste de Bulgaria, los campos de tabaco han sido cosechados. Rebaños de ovejas deambulan por las colinas al cuidado de pastores y perros peludos. A lo lejos, el muecín llama a los fieles a la oración.

Cuarenta y cinco años de régimen comunista, y 20 de ensayo para volver a crear una economía de mercado han tenido poco efecto allí, donde los turcos étnicos y los pomaks son mayoría en una comunidad de serena dignidad, vestigio del Imperio Otomano. Las jornadas comienzan al amanecer y terminan a la puesta del sol, la pobreza es un compañero diario, envuelto en el humo de los cigarrillos enrollados a mano y charlas en turco.

Pero el cambio está llegando, y muchos aquí consideran que no va a ser para mejor. Estimulada por la creciente demanda mundial de oro, una compañía minera canadiense, Dundee Precious Metals y su filial búlgara, Balkan Mineral & Mining, proyectan una gran mina a cielo abierto cerca de esta ciudad, que está cerca de la frontera griega y a cuatro horas en carro al sureste de la capital,Sofía.

El proyecto ha estado envuelto en controversia social y ambiental desde el principio, pero este 2011, el gobierno búlgaro concedió a la compañía una licencia provisional, ignorando la feroz oposición de la comunidad.

“La mina va a destruir nuestro medio de vida”, dice Ahmed Ahmed, un pastor de 64 años de la aldea de Dazhdovnik, como su rebaño pastoreado cerca del sitio de la pretendida mina.

Su vecino Shukria Mehmed remarca: “simplemente no necesitamos la mina. Ya tenemos todo lo que necesitamos.”

El pretendido yacimiento minero, en la cima de una colina Ada Tepe, se encuentra a las afueras de Krumovgrad, un pueblo de unas 6.000 personas. La mina a cielo se explotaría cerca de más de una docena de otros asentamientos colindantes con terrenos agrícolas y pastizales.

Balkan Mineral & Mining ha asegurado repetidamente a los residentes locales que no habría efectos adversos graves para su salud y el medio ambiente regional. Y el gobierno central está convencido de que la mina traería riqueza a la zona y el país en su conjunto. Pero la mayoría de la gente de aquí no está convencida y es abiertamente hostil a cualquier actividad minera a gran escala.

A diferencia de otras áreas en las montañas Ródope, que soportaron intensa minería e industrialización bajo el comunismo y hoy en día llevan las cicatrices de la destrucción del medio ambiente, el paisaje de la colina Ada Tepe sigue siendo sorprendentemente virgen.

Gran parte de la región Krumovgrad conforma la red Natura 2000, la red de áreas ambientalmente sensibles protegidas por la Unión Europea. De las 191 especies de aves en Bulgaria, el 46 por ciento se encuentran aquí, así como la mitad de las especies de reptiles, anfibios y mamíferos.

El cultivo del tabaco a pequeña escala ha sido una ocupación tradicional, con los que se manufactura muchas de las principales marcas de cigarrillos. El pastoreo de ganado es también muy popular, la producción de hortalizas, el cultivo de hierbas medicinales y la apicultura son otras de las ocupaciones con las que se ganan la vida. Hay también una pequeña fábrica de zapatos.

Sin embargo, la región está lejos de prosperar. La tasa de desempleo es oficialmente alrededor del 13 por ciento, y la producción de tabaco se ha reducido drásticamente con la pérdida de los subsidios del gobierno. Muchas familias apenas logran llegar a fin de mes.

La compañía minera dice que puede ayudar a revertir esta situación, otorgando 300 puestos de trabajo en la fase de implementación y 230 durante la explotación de la mina. Además, se ha comprometido a crear un fondo municipal para proyectos de infraestructura y un fondo de inversión para apoyar a las pequeñas y medianas empresas.

“Hay factores económicos que no pueden ser ignorados”, dice Alex, Néstor, alto funcionario de Dundee Precious Metals y vicepresidente de la Cámara Minera de Bulgaria. “Una gran inversión como la nuestra, elevará el nivel de vida en todo el municipio y hará girar la rueda. Debe haber un cambio de pensamiento, de lo contrario, la región seguirá siendo pobre.”…”Los argumentos en contra de nosotros son débiles”, añadió, “se basan en la emoción y en miedos irracionales.”

Existe más que sólo emoción, sin embargo. La contaminación potencial de los escasos recursos hídricos de la zona es la principal causa de preocupación entre los residentes. De acuerdo a las entrevistas con varios agricultores, la perforación extensa durante la exploración ha secado los pozos locales o enturbia el agua. Danko Zhelev, el gerente de exploración de Balkan Mineral & Mining y geólogo responsable del proyecto, atribuye lllla falta de agua al clima seco y muy caluroso de los últimos años.

El clima, con veranos calurosos e inviernos suaves del Mediterráneo, caracteriza la región y debe tenerse muy en cuenta. El río Krumovitsa, que abastece a una gran parte del agua para beber y para riego en Krumovgrad, se seca en los meses de verano, dejando al descubierto su lecho de grava. El proyecto minero, que produce concentrado de oro a través de un proceso de trituración, molienda y flotación, exige el uso de grandes cantidades de agua que podrían agotar los recursos.

Y el depósito previsto de residuos mineros – hasta 14,6 millones de toneladas de roca estéril y 7,2 millones de toneladas de relaves se acumularía a unos 150 pasos del río, en los nueve años de vida de la mina.

“Nuestro verdadero tesoro no es el oro, es el agua”, dice Usein Usein, de 50 años, propietario de una cafetería popular en Krumovgrad, donde el proyecto minero es un tema constante de discusión. “¿Cómo voy a ver a mis nietos cuando se hallan envenenado sus vidas?”

Incluso los pocos residentes que apoyan el proyecto, con la esperanza de un auge económico, tienen sus reservas.

“Creo que sería bueno tener un gran empleador en la región”, dijo Plakan Mehmed, de 38 años. “Por otro lado, no me fío de que las instituciones búlgaras podría proporcionar el control necesario.”

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PROJECT

 

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Toxic Europe

Poorly regulated mining and refining facilities are causing enormous devastation, while corporate interests are pushing ever harder to exploit the untapped mineral resources of the continent.

 

Boryana Katsarova for The International Herald Tribune

Yusuf Emurla, 70, who fled to Turkey in the late 1980s, was born in the Krumovgrad region and visits every summer. ‘‘I grew up here, and every tree is dear to me,’’ he said. More Photos »

By DIMITER KENAROV - Published: October 31, 2011

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/01/world/europe/plans-for-gold-mine-divide-bulgarians.html?pagewanted=all

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Boryana Katsarova for The International Herald Tribune

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Plans for Gold Mine Divide Bulgarians

A Canadian mining company and its Bulgarian subsidiary plan to open a big open-pit gold mine atop a hill, Ada Tepe, above, next to Krumovgrad, home to about 6,000 people.

KRUMOVGRAD, BULGARIA — At the edge of Europe in southeastern Bulgaria, the fields of tobacco have been harvested. Flocks of sheep roam the grassy hills, herded by shepherds and their shaggy dogs. Far off, the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer.

Forty-five years of Communist dictatorship and 20 more of a rush to recreate a market economy have had little effect here, where ethnic Turks and Pomaks form a majority in a community of quiet dignity, a remnant of the Ottoman Empire. The workdays begin at sunrise and end at sundown; poverty is a daily companion, wrapped in the smoke of hand-rolled cigarettes and chatter in Turkish.

But change is coming, and many here think it will not be for the better. Spurred by the rising worldwide demand for gold, a Canadian mining company, Dundee Precious Metals, and its Bulgarian subsidiary, Balkan Mineral & Mining, have made plans to open a big open-pit gold mine near this town, which is close to the Greek border and a four-hour drive southeast of the capital, Sofia.

The project has been mired in social and environmental controversy from the beginning, but this year the Bulgarian government provisionally granted the company a go-ahead, overriding the fierce opposition of the community.

“The mine will destroy our livelihood,” Ahmed Ahmed, a 64-year-old shepherd from the village of Dazhdovnik, said as his flock grazed near the site of the proposed mine.

His neighbor Shukria Mehmed concurred. “We just don’t need the mine,” she said, her clothes and hands soiled brown from picking tobacco. “We already have all that we need.”

The proposed mining site, atop a prominent hill, Ada Tepe, lies just outside Krumovgrad, a town of about 6,000 people. It is close to more than a dozen other settlements with adjoining agricultural fields and pastures, some no more than a stone’s throw from the area expected to become the open pit.

Balkan Mineral & Mining has repeatedly assured local residents that there would be no serious adverse effects to their health and the regional environment. And the central government is convinced that the mine would bring much-needed wealth to the area and the country as a whole. But most of the people here remain unconvinced and openly hostile toward any large-scale mining.

Unlike other areas in the Rhodope Mountains, which were heavily mined and industrialized under Communism and today bear the scars of environmental destruction, the landscape remains surprisingly pristine.

Much of the Krumovgrad region is in Natura 2000, the network of environmentally sensitive areas protected by the European Union. Of the 191 bird species in Bulgaria, 46 percent are found here, as well as half of the country’s species of reptiles, amphibians and mammals.

Small-scale tobacco farming has been a traditional occupation, with a high-end variety used in many of the major cigarette brands. Livestock grazing is also popular, as well as vegetable production, the cultivation of medicinal herbs and beekeeping. There is also a small shoe factory.

Still, the region is far from thriving. The unemployment rate is officially around 13 percent, and tobacco production has sharply declined with the loss of government subsidies. Many families are barely managing to make ends meet.

The company says it can help reverse this predicament, promising 300 jobs in the construction phase and 230 jobs during the exploitation of the mine. In addition, it has pledged to create a municipal fund for infrastructure projects and an investment fund for supporting small and medium-size businesses.

“There are economic factors that cannot be ignored,” said Alex Nestor, the top public affairs official at Dundee Precious Metals and deputy chairman of the Bulgarian Mining Chamber, an industry group. “A large investment like ours will raise the standard of living in the whole municipality and will turn the wheel. There must be a change of thinking; otherwise, the region will remain poor.”

“The arguments against us are weak,” he added, “based on emotion and irrational fears.”

There is more than emotion, however. Potential pollution of the limited water resources in the area is the principal cause for concern among residents. According to interviews with several farmers, the extensive drilling during exploration has dried up local wells or muddied the water. Danko Zhelev, the exploration manager of Balkan Mineral & Mining and the head geologist of the project, attributes this situation to the hot and exceedingly dry weather of recent years.

The climate, with hot Mediterranean summers and mild winters, is indeed at the root of the quandary facing the region. The Krumovitsa River, which supplies a large portion of the water for drinking and irrigation in Krumovgrad, runs dry in the summer months, exposing its gravel bed. The mining project, which would produce gold concentrate through a process of crushing, grinding and flotation, calls for the use of large quantities of water that could further strain resources.

And the planned waste facility — where as much as 14.6 million tons of waste rock and 7.2 million tons of tailings would be deposited over the expected nine-year life of the mine — would be about 150 steps from the river.

“Our real treasure is not gold but water,” said Usein Usein, 50, the proprietor of a popular coffee shop in Krumovgrad, where the proposed mine is a constant topic of discussion. “How am I going to look at my grandchildren when I know I’ve poisoned their lives?”

Even the few residents who support the project, hoping that it would provide an economic lift, have reservations.

“I think it would be nice to have a big employer in the region,” said Plakan Mehmed, 38. “On the other hand, I don’t trust that Bulgarian institutions could provide the necessary control.”

Company and government experts at the Environment and Waters Ministry say no heavy metals would be released into the water system. Up to 98 percent of the water from the industrial process would be recycled, though some of the seepage would be discharged directly into the river, after solid particles are clarified.

But Gergana Chilingirova, an ecologist in Krumovgrad, points out that there are high levels of toxic arsenic in the ore. “There is a real danger that the drinking water of the region would be contaminated,” she said.

The Krumovitsa River is part of the Maritza River Basin, which flows through Turkey and Greece and empties into the Aegean Sea, creating potential pollution in other countries.

Talks have been held about building a treatment plant for the water released into the river, but Balkan Mineral & Mining is reserving this only as a backup, in case the water quality deteriorates in the first year of mining.

“The fears that something would happen to the environment are unsubstantiated,” said Asen Turdiev, deputy regional governor and a fervent supporter of the mining development. “A large number of experts have given a green light to the project, so I have no worries.”

The mayor of Krumovgrad, Sebihan Mehmed, is distrustful of such assertions. Despite her interest in attracting outside investments that would improve life in the area, she argues that this project fails the test.

“I have demands not because I’m against the project as such — my father was a miner — but because we don’t want vandalism,” she said. “We don’t want to be robbed of our clean environment and resources. As the project stands, the damages to our region would be much greater than the benefits.”

Mrs. Mehmed, who has just won her third term as mayor with an overwhelming majority, has made detailed plans for creating an alternative economy for her town, based on environmental tourism, bioagriculture and meat processing, all of which she says would generate jobs. Whether that is realistic is hard to say: Her municipality is counting on structural funds from the European Union, and they could provide support for her vision.

All of that effort would be wasted, she said, if the mining project goes ahead.

“Our town is not made to last 10 years,” she said. “The company will finish its business and leave, but what will happen to us afterward? Nobody is telling us.”

After an extensive series of public hearings in September, the High Ecological Expert Council recommended approval of the environmental impact assessment.

The Bulgarian environment and waters minister, Nona Karadzhova, has yet to endorse it — the environmental impact assessment was returned for second approval because of a minor technicality — but its passage is virtually assured.

“What is the point of holding public hearings, if nobody is hearing us?” asked Rami Azis, the mayor of Dazhdovnik. “Why should a private company and the government in Sofia decide the fate of the people who live in the Rhodope? Nobody is listening to us, and we’ll be the ones who’ll bear the brunt of all this.”

Some residents of Krumovgrad even make comparisons between the old Communist government and the current one. In the late 1980s, Bulgaria undertook a campaign, called the Revival Process, that sought to force all Bulgarian Turks and Pomaks to change their names and erase their cultural identities.

Yusuf Emurla, 70, who escaped from Bulgaria to Turkey during the campaign but comes back to his birthplace next to Ada Tepe every summer, sees the same political recklessness now.

“I grew up here, and every tree is dear to me,” he said. “But I have no idea why the Bulgarian government so easily destroys its own country.”

This article by Dimiter Kenarov, a freelance writer, was supported in part by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting .

A version of this article appeared in print on November 1, 2011, in The International Herald Tribune with the headline: Plans for Gold Mine Divide Bulgarians.

Image by Dimiter Kenarov. Bulgaria, 2011.

Small-scale tobacco farming has been a traditional occupation, with a high-end variety Bashi-bali used in many of the major cigarette brands. ‘‘We just don’t need the mine,’’ Shukria Mehmed, 60, said, her clothes and hands soiled brown from picking tobacco. ‘‘We already have all that we need.’’ Image by Dimiter Kenarov. Bulgaria, 2011.

http://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/bulgaria-government-gold-mine-water-sanitation-economy

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