TBILISI, DFWatch–Mining work resumed at Sakdrisi on Saturday, a site where scientists and environmentalist groups say is an ancient gold mine with invaluable artifacts from prehistoric man.
The controversy about the mine near Bolnisi in the southern part of Georgia has involved the construction company, NGOs, foreign archaeologists, youth activists, the government and locals.
Even though the court blocked further mining in Sakdrisi, RMG Gold resumed work on Saturday. In a statement the company refers to a decree issued by the Culture Ministry and the National Agency on Protection of Cultural Heritage on December 12, 2014, 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.
The statement also says that international experts concluded that they do not expect to discover new artefacts at the site. The company also refers to a decision made in 2006 when Sakdrisi was granted status as cultural heritage site and the company was banned from carrying out mining work there, which caused a loss of tens of millions of lari for the municipality and the state.
The RMG Gold claims it is a priority for the company to preserve the cultural heritage and protect artefacts discovered by archeologists.
“The company has 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.”
Activists protested on Saturday at the area of the mine in Sakdrisi against the resumption of work there. They managed to get into 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. For almost two years the campaigners have been demanding to give Sakdrisi back its status as protected cultural heritage site, a status which was unexpectedly removed by order of the Culture Ministry in 2013.
Also some locals joined Saturday’s protest. Activists report that there were explosions from the ongoing mining work.
Local and foreign archaeologists claim there are more than 5,400 years old traces of human activity in Sakdrisi, like stone tools, and many fear that RMG Gold’s mining work will damage the historical value of the site.