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Opposition Calls for Cancellation of Land Auction at Sakdrisi Gold Mine

Tuesday, March 20
Georgian opposition parties arrived at Sakdrisi Gold Mine and archeological site in Bolnisi Municipality, Kvemo Kartli region, where they protested against the announced 16 hectare land auction, which will be given to a winner company for disposal for 10 years only for 15,000 GEL ($6,133).

The opposition parties call on the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development for the cancellation of the auction, claiming the land will be given to mining company RMG Gold, which has been obtaining gold from Sakdrisi mine since 2013.

The land, which has been put up at auction, is located right next to the area, where RMG is carrying out works.

14 opposition parties accuse RMG Gold of obtaining gold without observing necessary norms and of being connected to tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, founder of the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party and former Prime Minister of Georgia.

The protesters demanded from the leadership of the RMG Company to let them cross their land in order to look around the 16 ha territory, however, they were refused the entry.

The situation escalated when around 200 representatives of the opposition parties broke into the territory where the company is carrying out the mining works. There was a physical and verbal confrontation as well.

“Ex-PM Ivanishvili wants to get more money from the state land…We will not let him do that. With joint efforts we have to stop this process,” one of the leaders of the United National Movement party, Nika Melia stressed.

According to the leader of non-parliamentary opposition New Georgia, Giorgi Vashadze, the parties plan to take part in the auction and purchase the mentioned territory.

“We are going to take this area with the lease to prevent RMG Gold dispose this territory. However, the priority for us is the health of the locals, who suffer from grave diseases,” Vashadze said.

Along the opposition parties, the representatives of Sakdrisi Protection Committee, composed of Non-Governmental Organizations, environmentalists and ordinary people, also protest against the land auction.

They say if the company is given additional land for mining, it will bring even more harm to the health of local population.

Sakdrisi Protection Committee released a statement a few days ago, saying the auction raises many question, as only one company – RMG Gold expressed wish to participate in it.

“According to the recent research, the air, water and soil contamination by the RMG Gold activities at Sakdrisi field has exceeded the norms which led to increased cases of cancer and other diseases in the local population,” the committee stressed.

They also added the company has not fulfilled any undertaken commitment and still does not reimburse the environmental damage caused by its activities.

Local and foreign archaeologists claim there are traces of old humans in Sakdrisi dating back to 5000. The Sakdrisi mountain-archaeological mine is believed to be the world's oldest gold-mining center. The settlement from the Bronze-Age period is found on this territory. In 2006, the mine was granted the status of cultural monument, which was lifted in 2013.

The opposition and the Sakdrisi Protection Committee assure that RMG Gold activities damaged the historic value of the site.