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RMG Gold to resume mining in Sakrdirisi

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, December 15
The National Agency for Cultural heritage of Georgia gave permission to RMG Gold on Friday to begin mining gold in Sakdrisi. The area is regarded as a cultural heritage site by certain German and Georgian archeologists.

Director General of the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Nikoloz Antidze stressed that Sakdrisi's cultural heritage status has been lifted. He claimed that “all procedures were carried out in accordance with the law.”

The news was followed by rallies in the area. Activists comprised of NGOs, civil society representatives, environmentalists and ordinary people managed to get onto the site, but were prevented by police from approaching the excavation area.

A committee for the protection of Sakdrisi was set up when the issue was first raised a couple of years ago. For almost two years the campaigners have been demanding to give Sakdrisi back its status as a protected cultural heritage site, a status which was removed by order of the Culture Ministry in 2013.

RMG Gold claims that they resumed activities on the site according to a decision made by the National Agency for Cultural Heritage of Georgia, adding that the decision was based on the fact that part of the site has been fully researched by archeologists and the rest of the area wasn’t possible to research due to the alarming condition and the threat of collapse. A statement released by the company also reads that international experts concluded that they do not expect to discover new artifacts at the site.

RMG Gold claims it is a priority for the company to preserve the site’s cultural heritage and protect the artifacts discovered by archeologists.

“The company planned to finance and, together with the National Museum, construct a new archeological museum in Bolnisi to continue the research into and protection of cultural heritage.”

The activists are demanding the arrival of the Minister of Culture and the head of the Cultural heritage Agency on the site and for the company to present all the documents based on which Sakdrisi lost its status of historical heritage.

“What should I protect? They have destroyed our past. I was standing here watching with my own eyes how they were destroying it,” said activist Nino Mikiashvili. The activists stress that the government and the company representatives violated a court’s verdict, prohibiting any large-scale activities on the site. “They have started work and destroyed the site stealthily…” they say.

Locals who work in the company, supported launching work at Sakdrisi. According to them, the mine is the main source of income for their families.

Local and foreign archaeologists claim there are traces of human activity in Sakdrisi dating back 5,000 years. The Sakdrisi mountain-archaeological mine is believed to be the world's oldest gold-mining center. The settlement from the Bronze-Age period is found on this territory. In 2006, the mine was granted the status of cultural monument, which was lifted in 2013. Many fear that RMG Gold’s mining work will damage the historical value of the site.