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Government priories: People vs. Manganese

By Tatia Megeneishvili
Wednesday, May 21
Chiatura, located in the Imereti region, is on the brink of an ecological catastrophe. The whole city including its surrounding 12 villages has been the source of manganese for ages. According to the local population, the area is just “dying”.

“Rivers and springs are polluted; the air during sunny days is full of dust, and areas are deserted,” Tsisana Berodze, a resident of Rgani stated.

Georgian Manganese has operated in the Chiatura region since 2006. They were given the right to mine manganese for 49 years.

Rgani is one of the villages where Georgian Manganese is working. There are about 600 families in this village, which has three open sand-pits (quarry).

“We are choking because of the manganese dust during sunny weather, but when it is raining, it is even worse,” Goderdzi Babunashvili stated.

According to the locals, 80% of the village is used for mining manganese.

“In old times they were re-cultivating, now no one cares – they take away all they need. Do you know that 97% of people in our village are ill with swelling?” Babunashvili said.

Shota Gaprindashvili, head of the Unity of Chiaturian’s Association agrees with the idea that the “rules” of mining are simply ignored by Georgian Manganese.

He said that when they first learned about these wrongdoings in 2011, they applied to the government several times asking them to prevent the ecocide. “This is the crime before the future generations,” Gaprindashvili stated.

According to Gaprindashvili, because of the violations, the underground waters have become poisoned. “This is exactly the main reason why the number of diseases has increased in this area,” stressed Gaprindashvili.

Governor of the Chiatura Municipality, Sulkhan Makhatadze, said the reason for Georgian Manganese’s action is that the government has set it free from any responsibilities.

“They were given free will of action and here we are - this is the result of everything. We cannot complain anywhere, and they have no honor on their own to stop such actions,” Makhatadze stressed.

According to Gaprindashvili, Georgian Manganese has already caused several million laris of damage to Chiatura.

“They are not just destroying the eco-environment and cause problems to the local population, they also cause huge environmental damage. We cannot find out who really is responsible for everything. Can you imagine that we do not even know the name of the company’s head? They are hiding somewhere and avoiding all contact,” Gaprindashvili stated.

The Khvirila River is also in awful condition. The river just stinks with the smell of manganese. According to Gaprindashvili, the waste from factories is running down the river without filtration.

“We did some tests a few times here, and the result was positive every time… that river is contaminated,” he stated.

Around 3,250 miners work in Chiatura mine for 600 GEL. They complain about the heavy conditions they are working in.

Kakha Leshkhishvili, a resident of Chiatura, said the miners are working 400 meters deep. While they are taking a risk, Georgian Manganese representatives consider them as “slaves.”

“This city has been dead for long time already, we have no future,” stated Kakha Leshkhishvili, resident of Chiatura.

The Director of the PR Department of Georgian Manganese, Maka Kvaratskhelia, later explained to The Messenger that salaries at the Chiatura mine depend on the work history and qualification of the miners. “The average salary is 650 GEL, but for example tunnel workers may be receiving even 1,000 GEL. Salary also depends on working days and fulfilling the plan,” Kvaracxelia stressed.

According to her, statistics of such a high percentage of ontological diseases do not exist in the region.

The company started the re-cultivation process in 2012. Since then twice a year they always carry out the process, in early spring and late autumn.

“Last time, Georgian Manganese re-cultivated three acres of land near the mine Mghvimevi, on the Khrami plateau,” Kvaratskhelia explained.

Kvaratskhelia said that Georgian Manganese has signed a memorandum with the school in the village of Gezruli, according to which students of the school grew trees and plants native to the region, and the company finances them on tours around the country.

“On April 4, children brought over 3,000 saplings and planted them with the representatives of Georgian Manganese,” Kvaratskhelia stated.

According to her, the company plans to re-cultivate a total of 90 acres of land, out of which they have already re-cultivated 15 acres. “As far as the process is available, we can do this only twice a year. We can not to everything at once. As for the village of Rgani, as soon as the mining process is completed, we will go through every necessary process there,” she said.

The material was prepared as part of the media tour carried out within the framework of the Regional Civil Society network (R-CSN) and facilitated by the non-governmental organization CIDA.