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Weeping of Shukruti - A report from the subsiding village

Wednesday, 01 December 2021 16:39 hits 1087 times

Residents of Shukruti covered large cavities with iron sheets. Whoever had another place to go or at least rent a new house elsewhere fled the village. There are only elders and a couple of younger residents in the village slowly disappearing in the ground.

In March, they have barricaded the mine entrance. All they demand is adequate compensation to be able and relocate elsewhere. The police started investigations against organizers; some were put on trial and threatened with a long sentence.

In “Georgian Manganese, “they fear that if they agree to pay the compensation for Shukruti residents, other villages will start rallies demanding the same.

“Leaving the village is the only choice“

Demur Neparidze, 70, living in Shukruti, points to the walnut tree, split in two. He planted this tree 30 years ago, on plain land. Now the same place is a seven-meter slope. One half of the tree is still standing where it was planted; another moved with the ground. “Walnut is the least of my complaints; the house is about to collapse. It sank in-ground for one meter already. The walls are torn open. I built this house in 1980; it is not old. This part of the village will collapse altogether. “Shukruti+ “a subcontractor of “Georgian Manganese, “have never admitted their blame but still paid to Demur Neparidze 45000 GEL. The family used this money to buy land far from Shukruti and fence it off. However, they could not afford to build anything and still live in Shukruti, a half-demolished house.

“Now a fallen-off brick may kill us, or we may sink with the house, the company does not take responsibility. “– Demur Neparidze was a miner for 45 years; he knew the situation of Shukurti well - We were mining in Soviet time, but when they found out it was dangerous for the village, the mine was closed. Chiatura is a city of mines; several years ago, a private company entered the business, opened Korokhnali mine, and started the process. Meanwhile, the entire village is sinking into the ground.

Gizo Gaprindashvili has been covering the cavities in his yard with iron sheets for four years now. The directorship of “Georgian Manganese” knows of this but has not offered Gizo compensation.

Shukrutians rallied in past years, even blocking the entrance of the mine.

They started mining under the village in 2017.

“We are under the siege. When we decided to protest, company employees, police officers, State Security Service all tried to threaten us. Houses are collapsing; the village is falling. The graveyard is sinking; we have reburied several bodies already. “

The entire village is leaning on wooden poles. How long will they stand? We tried to negotiate with the company; Merab Lominadze and Temur Khonelia, directors of “Georgian Manganese,” Givi Modebadze, the mayor of Chiatura, and a former parliamentarian Sulkhan Makhatadze. Filimon Abramishvili, executive of the local police, attended those meetings. The only agreement we managed was a verbal one; they refused to sign the document. Directors used to say they would agree to pay Shukrutians but under the table. If there were papers signed, other villages would demand compensation. Several families have won in the court against “Georgian Manganese” four or five years ago, but company lawyers manage to prolong the process and not pay compensation.

“Of course, we did not want to see Shukruti like that, but we are in dire straits now. We have no other choice than to leave this place. The people who do not have anywhere to go are the most afraid.

Giorgi Neparidze, 29, is one of the rally organizers. He says they tried to bribe him, and then the executive of the Chiatura police department threatened him with drug planting.

“They wanted to threaten us, which is insulting for us. We were born and raised here. Pensioners come here, spend nights with us and help with every 5, 10 GEL they have. We cannot disappoint them or fear anything to stop protecting our families. “

Last year locals rallied for more than 100 days. As a result, “Shukruti+ LTD. “Made a promise they would examine the damage and compensate families in the following six months. According to the plan, all 285 families should be paid.

New (old) actor – “Shukruti +“

“Shukruti+” was founded on May 20, 2020. Jemal Kharaishvili and Nodar Mikaberidze are own 50% of shares each. Nodar Mikaberidze is owner of „Manganum Logistics“. “Manganum Logistics “has a deal signed with “Georgian Manganese” – Mikaberidze buys cheap ore, processes it in “Zestaponi Ferroalloys Factory,” and sells it, profiting millions. In 2020 “Shukruti+ “started producing ore as well.

Nodar Mikaberidze was one of the negotiators with protesters.

“Georgian Manganese” could not manage to reach an agreement. Our team worked for two months to negotiate with locals. Three thousand five hundred people work in this company; if it stops for a month, the city will suffer. Mines were reactivated in 2007. Since then, not a single penny was compensated to locals. This village is within a landslide area, and there was an earthquake that damaged buildings. “Shukruti+” was founded in 2020, and I managed to pay 1200000 GEL as compensation. Nine families received 100% of compensation, two or three received 80-85%, and so on.“

Levan Shekiladze did not receive anything. His two-story house is slowly collapsing. He managed to build a room in the same yard, but its walls are already cracked.

Mikaberidze thinks there is no connection between “Shukruti+” and newly-built houses collapsing.

“The area below “Shukruti” was processed twice in 1960-80s. 4-5 meters high mines are located 150 meters below. This surface is slowly sinking. Geologists think those rock layers need 30-70 years to dissolve. Villagers are not in jeopardy, and the mine below is strengthened with concrete pillars. For 13 years, nobody cared for these people. I came here, negotiated with the company, managed to find the money, paid twice more than promised. I think these people deserve it. “

If nine families were fully compensated (400000 GEL), three received 105000 GEL; the remaining 695000 GEL should be divided between 73 families, meaning that each of them would receive 9500 GEL (3069 USD). However, that amount is not enough to buy a livable house even in the remotest villages.

Mikaberidze thinks malicious forces support rallies. However, he does not specify or prove who those forces may be.

In March, the Korokhnali mine was closed due to protests. One night policemen entered the shed protesters spent nights in and fined them for breaking the curfew.

“The mayor used to tell us our village was responsible for the 25% of the budget of Georgia and the entire budget of Chiatura. If that’s right, then what is the problem? We cannot live here; let us live somewhere else.

- Giorgi, did you address the ombudsman?

- A representative of the ombudsman was here. We spoke about how others tried to threaten us; they listened but did nothing.

About “Georgian Manganese“

“Georgian manganese “is the biggest producer of ore in Georgia. It holds a 40-year license to produce ore on 16000ha in Imereti - Chiatura and Sachkhere municipalities. Under their name operate Chiatura Manganese Ore Mine, Zestafoni Ferroalloys Plant, Vartsikhe-2005 Hydro Power Plant, and Ferromedi Medical Clinic.

Chiatura Manganese Ore Mine produces 1.3 tons of manganese ore. It manufactures ferroalloys, silicon manganese, ferromanganese, ferrosilicon in Northern and South America, Russia. “Georgian Manganese” has a share of 10% in export, more than 100 million USD.

Chiatura Manganese Ore Mine produces 1.3 tons of manganese ore. It manufactures ferroalloys, silicon manganese, ferromanganese, ferrosilicon in Northern and South America, Russia. “Georgian Manganese” has a share of 10% in export, more than 100 million USD.

“Georgian Manganese” was owned by “Georgian Manganese Holding ltd.” In 2006, 75% of shares were bought by Ukrainian “Privat Group,” founded by billionaires Igor Kolomisky and Gennadiy Bogolyubov.

According to the report from “Green Alternative,” “Privat Group” re-registered “Georgian Manganese” to their own US holding “Georgia American Alloys.”

According to the report from “Green Alternative,” “Privat Group” re-registered “Georgian Manganese” to their own US holding “Georgia American Alloys.”

Georgia American Alloys, a US-registered company, owns the property in Georgia using the company Georgian American Alloys Sàrl, registered in Luxembourg (offshore).

According to the Georgian enterprise register, “Georgian American Alloys “is the owner of “Georgian Manganese,” “Vartsikhe 2005 “, and “GAA Management. “ “Georgian Manganese “itself is 100% stakeholder of 19 companies. Thirteen of them were founded during the special directorship.

Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia addressed Tbilisi’s City Court to appoint a special manager at Georgian Manganese” on May 10, 2017. The ministry also estimated the environmental damage done by the company to 416 million GEL. “Georgian Manganese” was fined by Revenue Service as well, with 200 million GEL.

Judge Nino Buachidze considered the case in an accelerated manner in 24 hours and granted the ministry’s appeal.

Nikoloz Chikovani was appointed as a special manager for three years. He should fix ecological issues caused by the “Georgian Manganese” as soon as possible, with funds from the company budget. The new special manager should also avoid polluting soil, air, and river and re-cultivate the damaged land.

Nikoloz Chikovani was a director of “Zestaponi Ferroalloys Factory” in 2003-2007. One of the company owners back then was Giorgi Kapanadze, also known as “Rizha.” Kapanadze is the key witness of the prosecutor’s office in the case of Gigi Ugulava, a former mayor of Tbilisi. After “Georgian Dream,” a political party of oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili came to power, the prosecutor’s office arrested Ugulava based on the testimony of Giorgi Kapanadze.

Giorgi Kapanadze is a significant stakeholder of “Georgian Manganese” and is closely associated with the “Georgian Dream.” Our source, a former high-ranking official of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia, verified that “Rizha” requested to appoint Chikovani as a special manager at “Georgian Manganese.”

During Chikovani’s management, the fines were reduced and later canceled. But, of course, the issues were never fixed. Open-pit mining became even more active, leading to deforestation, soil degradation, and the landscape’s deterioration. River Kvirila still flows black, thanks to polluted water from mines. Silt barriers were not installed, and old factories guilty of pollution are still active. Villages of Chiatura are still burrowed.

The special management period should end on May 9, 2020. On May 7, Chikovani addressed the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia to prolong the date for three more years. He presented a 14 point plan, mainly consisting of responsibilities from the previous three years. The ministry appealed to the court, which again granted the request.

The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia has not performed an environmental evaluation for the last five years.

Gela Mtivlishvili

Editor at mtisambebi.ge, a lawyer by education. Gela works on topics related to human rights, ethnic minorities, conflict zones and terrorism. E-mail: Mtivlishvili@gmail.com

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