The Alliance of Patriots of Georgia Protects a Major Cultural Monument of Georgia

The Alliance of Patriots of Georgia Protects a Major Cultural Monument of Georgia

A series of Large-Scale Protest Actions Across the Country to Defend the World’s Oldest Known Gold Mine in Sakdrisi.

Since 2013 the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia has regularly organized large-scale protest actions to defend the world’s oldest known gold mine in Sakdrisi, which is the major cultural monument of Georgia. The protest actions were continuously held across the country and involved an impressive number of the people from all cities and towns of Georgia.

Sakdrisi, also known as the Sakdrisi-Kachagiani site, is a gold mine and an archeological site, which contains a prehistoric mine. Sakdrisi is located in the south of Georgia's Kvemo Kartli region, between the Neolithic site of Arukhlo and the Paleolithic site of Dmanisi.

From 2004 to 2011, a group of Georgian and German scientists carried out large-scale excavations in Sakdrisi. The artifacts found there indicate that the mine dates back to the third millennium BC, and some samples - presumably to the second half of the fourth millennium. This proves that Sakdrisi is one of the world's oldest known gold mines and a major cultural heritage. The discovery of tools for mining and the processing of ore, as well as the finished stone areas for burning ore finally confirmed this fact. Such unique items have never been found even in Egypt.

However, in 2013 the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia deprived the site of its status of a cultural monument, and gave permission to the mining company RMG Gold to extract gold in the wider area, where Sakdrisi is located.

This decision caused huge outrage in Georgian society, sparking protests from both domestic and international academics and preservationists. The Georgian Orthodox Church also condemned this decision. In addition, the President of the Association of German Archaeologists addressed a letter to the Government of Georgia, saying "In the case of gold mining in Sakdrisi by an open pit, not only Georgia, but also Europe will lose forever one of the most important prehistoric sites". And the BBC, which specially visited Georgia to cover the situation around the site, made an extensive report about Sakdrisi (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-27499882).

Furthermore, a former Deputy Minister of Culture, Marina Mizandari, was dismissed from her post due to her public statement that "the destruction of the archaeological site Sakdrisi would be tantamount to a crime". Two weeks after her dismissal, the Head of the National Agency for Cultural Heritage was also replaced because of similar statements.

The first lawsuit related to Sakdrisi’s deprivation of its status of a cultural monument was filed in the Prosecutor's Office of Georgia by the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia, together with a group of Georgian scientists, on July 31, 2013. In the claim, they demanded the restoration of Sakdrisi’s status of a monument, as well as to terminate all RMG Gold’s mining works in the area. On June 13, 2014, the Tbilisi City Court satisfied the claim to terminate all gold mining works on the territory of the Georgian cultural heritage site of Sakdrisi.

In addition, with the aim to defend Sakdrisi, the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia began holding regular large-scale protest actions throughout the whole country to protest the monument’s deprivation of its official status. As a result of these numerous protest actions consisting of an impressive number of the people from all cities and towns of Georgia, on December 25, 2013, the Parliament of Georgia approved a proposal to establish an ad hoc investigative parliamentary commission to probe into the developments around Sakdrisi. However, on March 4, 2015, the ruling Georgian Dream coalition blocked the probe by refusing to vote for the members of the commission.

On December 14, 2014, the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia was holding a large-scale rally in the city of Batumi with more than 12,000 participants. The same day, while the party and its leaders were present in Batumi, the company RMG Gold (which continued its mining works in the area despite the ban of the Tbilisi Court) blew up the Sakdrisi site and, thus, wiped out the major cultural monument Sakdrisi. This was a huge tragedy for all of Georgia.

Just days after the site was blown up, the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia held a large protest rally near the Ministry of Culture, and demanded the dismissal of the Minister of Culture, Guram Odisharia. The party also demanded that the Minister of Culture be punished for illegal misconduct. At the same time, on December 19, 2014, the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia, together with the Georgian Initiative Group for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, and the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), filed a new lawsuit in the Prosecutor's Office with a demand of an immediate investigation into the case of Sakdrisi’s explosion and the violation of the Court’s ban.

As a result, Guram Odisharia was eventually removed from his post. However, the investigation into the case still continues today.

The demolition of one of the world’s major cultural monuments Sakdrisi is strongly condemned not only by the party, by also by the majority of the Georgian population, as well as the domestic and international communities for preservation of the world’s cultural monuments and heritage.