Villagers call for closure of Kütahya company after tailings failure


Dozens of people from villages close to a silver mining and refining facility in the western province of Kütahya staged a protest in front of the company on Tuesday, calling for the closure of the facility after the collapse of one of the embankments of its tailings dam.
Kütahya locals have been concerned since Saturday, when the embankment collapsed and caused fear over a possible cyanide leakage from the facility into nearby villages. The facility, owned by the Eti Silver Corporation, reportedly contains 15 million cubic meters of cyanide. It is located 34 kilometers from the provincial capital, near the village of Gümü?.
Villagers from Gümü?köy, Köprüören, Dulkadir and Aliköy gathered in front of the company on Tuesday and demanded the closure of Eti Silver. They held banners reading “We don’t want to die from cyanide,” “Don’t let Kütahya die,” “We won’t die for silver” and “Close Eti Gümü? [silver].”

Speaking to reporters, the mukhtar (village head) of Köprüören said he fears the cyanide may flow into the first stage of the dam, from where it could leak outside. He said the village of Köprüören would be affected the most in the event of a cyanide release.

Kütahya Governor Kenan Çiftçi, on the other hand, announced on Tuesday that there is currently no risk of cyanide release. “There is currently no risk of any threat to locals. This incident is completely under control,” he said.

In a press conference he called in his office, the governor said he had two meetings with Environment and Forestry Minister Veysel Ero?lu and took all necessary precautions. He said the company has stopped production and that the embankments have been strengthened to prevent any release of cyanide. He added that a team of experts has been following the situation around the clock.

Environmental groups warn that a possible leak would lead to a disaster much worse than a spill of industrial waste in October at an aluminum plant in western Hungary.

One million cubic meters of toxic red sludge flowed from a burst reservoir of an aluminum plant on Oct. 4 in Ajka, Hungary, approximately 160 kilometers west of Budapest. Nine people died and another 120 were injured. Hundreds of people were evacuated from the area.

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