TBILISI, DFWatch–Tbilisi was Tuesday “invaded” by workers from a Russian mining company who are angry over the suggestion that they should halt work to protect a 5,400 years old archaeological site.
The workers from Sakdrisi in southern Georgia gathered outside the president’s palace demanding a meeting with the head of state Giorgi Margvelashvili to discuss his statement that it is unacceptable to continue the mining work until a lawsuit is concluded.
When the president refused to meet them, the demonstrators walked to the government building, demanding to meet with the prime minister instead.
“The president made a one-sided statement that our company shouldn’t continue work. In this case we will be unemployed,” Gia Mushkudiani from RMG Gold told journalists.
According to him, all the locals in Bolnisi are demanding that the mining work continues, otherwise the region will be paralyzed.
Earlier this year, people in Kazreti, another village in the same area, went on strike because many RMG Gold employees were fired. The workers threatened Tuesday that the same will happen in Bolnisi, if excavation work is not allowed to continue in Sakdrisi, where archaeologists have found many bone tools and evidence of gold mining from the bronze age. A German archaeologist has called it the world’s oldest gold mine of unique value to the world.
Lia Ajiashvili, a spokeswoman for the protesters, said that if works is halted the entire Bolnisi population will come to Tbilisi to protest, because RMG Gold is financing the region.
On December 13, RMG Gold proceeded with mining blasts at the site, despite a court order to halt work until the conclusion of a lawsuit. The blasts almost completely destroyed the archaeological parts.
A company spokesman later said it is meaningless to talk about protection now, since it has already been destroyed. But many environmental activists and scientists believe there is still something left to save in Sakdrisi and protests are continuing. Activists blame the Culture Ministry for lifting the site’s cultural heritage status.