New Regulation in Turkey Permits Olive Tree Removals for Coal Mining

The regulation is meant to boost Turkish energy security. However, the country’s national olive oil association is already appealing the decision.
Izmir, Turkey
By Daniel Dawson
Mar. 11, 2022 10:21 UTC

A new reg­u­la­tion autho­rized in Turkey allows min­ing com­pa­nies to remove olive trees if doing so allows eas­ier access to under­ground coal deposits.

The country’s rul­ing Justice and Development Party (AKP) framed the move as a way to bol­ster Turkey’s energy secu­rity in light of the recent Russian inva­sion of Ukraine.

A very mean­ing­ful amount of the 190 mil­lion olive trees will be neg­a­tively affected even­tu­ally by the min­ing oper­a­tions.- Mustafa Tan, chair­man of the board, National Olive and Olive Oil Council

However, they added that any trees removed for min­ing pur­poses must be replanted else­where. The min­ing com­pa­nies would also be respon­si­ble for grow­ing olive trees in the area after com­plet­ing their activ­i­ties.

According to the European Association for Coal and Lignite, there are sub­stan­tial coal reserves in Turkey’s west­ern Aegean region and its south­ern coast­line with the Mediterranean Sea. These areas are home to the over­whelm­ing major­ity of the coun­try’s olive groves.

See Also:Turkey Announces Plan to Advance Sustainable Agriculture

The AKP’s deci­sion has been met with great skep­ti­cism by oppo­si­tion par­ties, envi­ron­men­tal­ists and farm­ers. They argue the move will hurt the country’s olive oil sec­tor and exac­er­bate the impacts of cli­mate change, which are already being felt by local pro­duc­ers.

With this reg­u­la­tion, the min­ing com­pa­nies will pil­lage the olive groves,” said Süleyman Bülbül, an oppo­si­tion law­maker. This reg­u­la­tion will pave the way for pro-gov­ern­ment com­pa­nies to plun­der the groves.”

Mustafa Tan, the chair­man of the board of Turkey’s National Olive and Olive Oil Council (UZZK for its Turkish ini­tials), told Olive Oil Times that no trees have been removed yet under the reg­u­la­tion, but we are wor­ried that it will begin soon.”

There are roughly 500,000 fam­i­lies who are olive pro­duc­ers in Turkey, and around 10 mil­lion peo­ple ben­e­fit from the indus­try directly or indi­rectly,” he added. A very mean­ing­ful amount of the 190 mil­lion olive trees will be neg­a­tively affected even­tu­ally by the min­ing oper­a­tions.”


Where Turkey’s largest coal deposits and olive groves coincide

However, Tan said the new reg­u­la­tion did not have the same power as a law would. He appeared opti­mistic that the reg­u­la­tion would be appealed in the courts and even­tu­ally over­turned.

Almost all the stake­hold­ers of the olive indus­try, us [the UZZK], NGOs, munic­i­pal­i­ties and some polit­i­cal par­ties have already started the legal process to appeal the deci­sion,” he said.

We expect that the courts will can­cel this reg­u­la­tion,” Tan added. We also requested from the related min­istry to with­draw this wrong reg­u­la­tion.”

Bahar Alan, the owner of Nova Vera, told Olive Oil Times that her 160 hectares of olives in Ayvalik, the his­toric cap­i­tal of Turkish olive oil pro­duc­tion, and Manisa would not be affected. However, she is con­cerned about the impact of the reg­u­la­tion on the wider sec­tor.

Alan insisted that olive trees are a far more valu­able resource than coal. After all, the oil from their fruit has fueled the Turkish peo­ple and its econ­omy for thou­sands of years.

It is a sec­tor that cre­ates an added value of approx­i­mately $1.5 bil­lion (€1.36 bil­lion) a year and has been in these lands for 8,000 years,” she told Olive Oil Times. We believe the biggest and most sacred min­eral is the olive. It is the great­est wish of us, the pro­duc­ers, that this irre­versible wrong deci­sion will be revised before it’s too late.”


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