President Margvelashvili said in a statement on December 19 that carrying out mining activities at the Sakdrisi gold mine, while court proceedings are still underway, are “inadmissible.”
Russian-owned RMG gold and copper mining company launched works at Sakdrisi, a hillock in Bolnisi municipality of Kvemo Kartli region, which some archeologists believe is the world’s one of the oldest gold mine, on December 13.
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Sakdrisi has been in the center of dispute since 2013 when the Ministry of Culture removed it from the list of protected heritage sites, which was then followed by the ministry’s decision in March, 2014 to give permission to RMG to launch open-cast mining at the area. But facing resistance from a group of preservationists, backed by some civil society organizations, including through a court case, RMG was not able up until now to carry out works.
The Culture Ministry’s March 13, 2014 decision was challenged in court by Tbilisi-based legal advocacy Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association (GYLA) and as an interim measure, pending final verdict, court ordered in early June not to carry out any operations at the disputed site.
But on December 12, after hastily going through otherwise lengthy bureaucratic procedures, the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation at the Ministry of Culture took a decision, further endorsed on the same day by Culture Minister, allowing RMG to launch activities at the Sakdrisi mine. Next morning, on December 13, the company carried out blasts at and sent heavy equipment to the site, prompting protest from activists, who have been campaigning against open-cast mine at Sakdrisi. Campaigners said that they were deliberately kept in dark about the Culture Ministry’s intention to issue a new permission.
“First of all, it should be noted that it is a duty of any civilized country to take care of its cultural heritage. The Sakdrisi gold mine is one of the oldest among Georgia’s cultural heritage sites,” President Margvelashvili said in a written statement.
“Court proceedings are still underway over Sakdrisi. Everyone has to wait for the conclusion of the court proceedings and then to follow court’s final verdict,” the President said. “Until then, it is inadmissible to carry out large scale works on the site.”
“I also believe that the government should act in accordance with the law and ensure transparent process with the participation of all the stakeholders,” he added.
The President released his statement after he met on December 19 with a group of activists, who are campaigning against open-cast mine at Sakdrisi and who are pushing for further archeological research at the site.