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Sakhdrisi site to be monitored until foreign experts arrive

By Tatia Megeneishvili
Thursday, April 24
Culture Minister Guram Odisharia has made a promise that the area of Sakdrisi-Karchagiani gold mine will not be touched until the full examination and assessment is completed. At the end of April, foreign specialists are expected to come to Georgia and carefully study the area.

Some scholars believe Sakhdrisi to be the oldest gold mine in the world and it will be surrounded by a demarcation line and in the selected area all kinds of works will be suspended.

Odisharia made this statement at a press conference held on April 23. Earlier on Tuesday he visited Kazreti on April 22 and met with the young environmental activists and NGO workers who set up camp there on April 14 with tents at the entrance to the Sakhdrisi mine, which some scholars say is 5,400 years old.

According to Odisharia, the examination work will start on April 30, while foreign experts will arrive in eight days.

Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili said at Wednesday’s cabinet session that the current developments are just speculations.

“We already have experts’ conclusion about this issue, they were working on this matter for approximately 3 months, there is nothing left to discuss, and the issue must finally be closed,” stated Gharibashvili.

The initiative group, which has organized the tent camp, will continue with protests until excavation work is stopped and monitoring and research begins.

On April 22 there was a small scuffle with locals in Kazreti, a town close to Sakhdrisi where many residents are employed at RMG Gold, the mining company which wants to dig in the area with the alleged ancient gold mine. Residents came to the rally and stated that if mining work in Sakhdrisi stops, many of them will suffer, because they are employed there and for the most part, it is their only source of income.

Workers at RMG want to have some kind of compromise so there is no harm done to the ancient mine, but also so that the workers don’t end up on the losing end.

There was a verbal confrontation between employees and anti-mining protesters in Kazreti, but police managed to defuse the situation.

The National Union of International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) claims that fiscal and business interests have ruined archaeological heritage. ICOMOS notes that on July 5 2013, the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection, with the request of the RMG Gold mining company, annulled the Sakhdrisi-Kachagiani mining prehistoric monument status and later the archaeological protection zone status was also canceled.