International delegates assess controversial mining at Sakdrisi gold mine

Agenda.ge, 27 Apr 2014 - 19:20, Tbilisi,Georgia

International visitors are in southern Georgia to assess the controversial mining issue at the Sakdrisi gold mine.

Switzerland’s Ambassador to Georgia Gunter Bechler and representatives of the German Embassy to Georgia today visited the mine, which some archaeologists’ believe is the world’s oldest gold mine.

The delegates met with members of the Sakdrisi Rescue Committee and assessed the situation from guard towers erected by the Committee members to oversee activities at the site.

The area has recently gained much attention after the Georgian Ministry of Culture gave the green light to Russian-owned gold and copper mining company RMG Gold to extract gold from the Sakdrisi mine.

Former Deputy Minister of Culture and now one of the members of the Sakdrisi Rescue Committee, Marina Mizandari, helped enlighten the officials about the current situation at the site.

The Swiss representative said he was "closely watching the situation in Sakdrisi” and in general, was aware of developments. However, he said he wanted to "familiarize himself” with the current events on place.

RMG Gold announced they were implementing licensed mining operations in Sakdrisi-Khachagiani and they would continue mining operations in this way, in accordance with the law, with relevant permission.

"The company is actively collaborating with the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia, as well as with the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation and is ready to implement any step in agreement with those bodies,” RMG announced in a statement.

In late January last year, RMG Gold laid off more than 180 workers, which sparked a large percentage of workers to strike from the plant in the small town of Kazreti on February 14.

The company said it was forced to lay off workers because of "significantly downscaled mining activities” as it was not able to dig gold from Sakdrisi.

Striking workers demanded a pay increase, improvement of working conditions and reinstatement of sacked employees, among other things.

Complaining over lack of attention by the Government, a group of strikers arrived in Tbilisi on March 7 and held a rally outside the Government’s office, after which the PM’s office said its representatives would try to mediate between the strikers and the employer.

The non-governmental organisations who opposed RMG Gold restoring work at the gold mine believed the Government echoed the investor company’s position toward the issue.

Sakdrisi Gold Mine is one of the oldest gold mines in the world and dates back almost 5,000 years. German and Georgian archeologists have been excavating the site since 2006.

Several German and Georgian archaeologists claim the gold mine was the oldest mine in the world. Georgian Ministry of Culture would not confirm if the gold and golden ores being mined were from the prehistoric era.

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