Permission has been given to the Rich Metals Group to carry-on mining at Sakdrisi-Kachagiani. In response to the dispute, the acting Minister of Culture and Monument Protection, Alexander Margishvili, and the Director General of Georgian National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation, Nikoloz Antidze said on March 14 that “the Government of Georgia considers it impractical to impede the employment of thousands of people and the improvement of the business environment based on a myth.”
RMG Gold allowed to resume work in Sakhdrisi
By Tatia Megeneishvili
Monday, March 17
In a letter sent to The Messenger the Ministry of Culture explained that the investigation of numerous documents and expert studies has revealed that “the ancient gold mine or the monument of universal significance was not proved to exist on the territory of Sakdrisi-Kachagiani.”
According to the ministry, independent international experts will be invited to monitor the work implemented by RMG GOLD Company, together with Georgian National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation. Thus, “in the case of some scientific discovery on the territory of the mine, the agency will conduct the relevant research and based on the decision by a competent commission, the excavated artefacts will be placed in the existing museum or an institution created especially for this purpose.”
Meeting with the students at Tbilisi State University on March 13, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili also claimed that the site does not have archaeological value. The PM said RMG has invested $300 million in Georgia and halting the company’s operations would leave 3,000 people without job.
However, the organizations and individuals working in the sphere of culture think it is “unfair to ignore the results of nine years of research by international scientists,” as some archeologists believe that Sakhdrisi is the world’s oldest gold mine dated for almost 5,000 years.
President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation Prof. Dr. Hermann Parzinger, expressed his concern on August 16, 2013 that “the archaeological monument of Sakdrisi gold mine is in great danger of being destroyed in the near future by the extension of modern gold mining.”
“If these plans are implemented, we will lose one of the most important prehistoric mining sites forever. I can’t imagine that these plans will be realized in Georgia, a country where protection and preservation of cultural heritage has high value,” he then stated.
Addressing Georgian officials to “reestablish the Immobile Heritage Status of the Sakdrisi mine” Parzinger said that “a unique heritage site of mankind” should not be sacrificed to pure economic interests.
“The reputation of Georgia would extremely suffer by such an act of destruction of an internationally known prehistoric site which lies on important archaeological path between the Neolithic site of Arukhlo and the outstanding Paleolithic site of Dmanisi,” Parzinger stated.
In an article sent to The Messenger on March 13, visiting professor of Tbilisi State University, Dr. Kety Rostiashvili said that RMG Gold, has “a notorious reputation” with malpractice in the Bolnisi region.
Calling the Code of Administrative Offenses of Georgia adopted in 1984 “a classical model of corrupt legalization due to its very liberal sanctions against offensive activities,” Dr. Rostiashvili says the code imposes very low fines for environmental crimes. “This legislative “immunity” traditionally was used for the plundering and the devastation of the environment of Georgia.”
She also says that “RMG Gold’s inhumane and unfair labor practice” is another widely debated topic.
“If the Code of Administrative Offenses of Georgia is not dramatically changed as it relates to environmental crimes, Georgia will be unable to protect its strategic and most valuable national treasure, its unique environment. But, “criminal loyalty” of the ministries to the “big companies” will cause not only vanishing of the unique monuments of Georgia, but might provoke massive unrest among civil society in general, including workers and farmers.”
The state officials however challenge the opinion considering the site as an oldest gold mine based on the conclusion of scholars and thus the activities of RMG Gold will be continued.