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Impending opening of Chromium Concentration Plant in Yeşilüzümlu

June 2024 Press Release

A meeting of the Üzümlü Environment Protection Group was held at the Üzümlü Halk Evi complex on 12th June 2024. The purpose of the meeting was to update English and non-Turkish speaking residents of Yeşilüzümlü on the current situation with the Chrome Concentration Plant application and to discuss ideas on how best to ensure the biosecurity of the region.

Around 50 concerned residents attended the meeting. A representative of the local environment protection group Dağ Taş Aş Bizim Platformu opened the meeting and outlined recent applications for various projects, such as extending the quarry, cement works, lime kiln, and chrome mines, all of which were declined due to legal reasons. These applications, mostly from small and local companies, met strong, determined, and legal resistance from environmental groups and outcomes from Environmental Impact Assessment Reports.

The chrome mine and processing plant on the right-hand side of the road behind the Avcı Kulübesi (Hunters Lodge), near the Koruköy junction on the road up to Yeşilüzümlü, was closed several years ago due to the operating company declaring bankruptcy. The latest application is to reopen the plant and develop it into a Chromium Concentration Plant to process raw material from various chrome mines in the area. A large proportion of the cleansed ore (approximately 80%) is exported to China for further processing. The application is from a large national company that has a license for over 11,200 hectares of land to develop more chrome mines over the next 30 years, extending as far as Yeşilüzümlü, İncirköy, Koruköy, Kızılbel, Nif, Çenger, Karacaören, and Gökçeovacık-Göcek.

Initial permissions have been granted and only need the Orman (Forestry Department) for a final signature to sign off the project. Fortunately, at this time, the head of the Orman has serious concerns about the environmental impact of the project and has not signed it off. However, should the head of the Orman change, that policy may well change. An application to a higher court has been lodged for a review of the environmental impact the plant will have, not only on the Yeşilüzümlü valley but also on the wider area of Çiftlik and Fethiye.

Chromium processing/concentration uses huge amounts of water, and the applicant has stated they will use water tankers rather than locally sourced groundwater or wells. The contaminated water will then be disposed of into the current channels and streams, eventually discharging into the Fethiye Gulf. Various downstream farms and smallholdings, particularly in Çiftlik, will be forced to use contaminated water to irrigate their crops. Many Fethiye residents also use the water fountains placed along the road to fill up large containers. It should also be noted that the increase in heavy trucks carrying both raw and processed ore, along with tankers on the road between Fethiye and Yeşilüzümlü, will raise pollution levels and create challenges for faster-moving traffic. Over the years, there have been serious accidents on this road, and slow-moving trucks and tankers will not help make the road safer.

Concerns were raised regarding residents of the wider region being unaware of the application and the resulting environmental damage to flora and fauna, as well as the destruction of the area’s natural beauty. Various suggestions were made on how best to engage residents, both ex-pats and locals, with the goal that no one should be unaware of what is happening. Protests at strategic places and times, articles in local and national press/TV, and emails and letters to influential people were among the suggestions discussed to get the message out.

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Lyn Ward

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