In the villages of Chiatura - Darkveti, Mgvimevi, Khalipauri, Rgani, Tabagrebi, and elsewhere, the situation is alarmingly severe. Hundreds of hectares of land have been dug up with open pit manganese mining and abandoned for years, deforested, and destroyed. A person also drowned in a ditch full of water. Even in villages up to 30 km away from the ore deposits, the ambient air is polluted and poses a threat to people's health. The concentration of heavy metals - arsenic and lead in the soil is much higher than the permissible norms. The Kvirila River and its tributaries are severely polluted with heavy metals. In some villages, there are no roads anymore, and in case of emergency, people do not have access to emergency medical care and rescue services. Children have to walk to school on footpaths that pass through quarries. In rainy weather, a strong smell permeates the quarries, due to which people have been known to lose consciousness.

The journalistic investigation by Mountain Stories confirmed that the company Georgian Manganese, which sees colossal financial gains from the extraction of manganese in Chiatura (according to official data, an annual profit of 96 million), completely disregards the laws, causes irreparable damage to the environment, endangers people's health, and buries their property and prospects into the ground. The enabler of this wicked campaign is Georgian Manganese's ally and guardian, the state.

Georgian Manganese LLC has held a license for manganese mining over 16,430 hectares in Chiatura municipality since December 19, 2006, for 40 years. The license was issued without the involvement of the population and environmental organizations at any stage of decision-making.

After the change of government, in 2013-2017, the company was fined 416 million GEL for environmental damage. On this pretext, in 2017, the state appointed a special manager to Georgian Manganese for three years - Nikoloz Chikovani, tied to Georgian Dream, who was wanted for financial crimes at one point. After the appointment of Chikovani, the company was forgiven a fine of almost half a billion GEL.

For the 7th year, by the temporary ruling of the judge of the Tbilisi City Court, Nino Buachidze, the special manager manages the enterprise in such a way that no lawsuit is filed in the court and no dispute is ongoing, which according to the lawyers is illegal.

The journalistic investigation by Mountain Stories showed that after the introduction of the special management regime in the enterprise, the environmental situation in Chiatura Municipality has radically worsened to the point of an ecological disaster.

After introducing a special manager to Georgian Manganese, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia no longer investigates the damage inflicted on the environment by company activity and does not respond to violations.

87-year-old Guram Gaprindashvili, a resident of Khalipauri village, appealed to the Government of Georgia with the request to cancel the license.

Guram Gaprindashvili is the only person in Chiatura who dared to start a legal dispute on this problem and demanded the cancellation of the license in the part of open pit mining.

30 years ago, he was already forced to relocate, because landslides developed in his area due to ore mining. He and his neighbors, 25 families, were given a plot of land in the same village, where the ore had already been extracted, to build new houses. 10 years ago, in the neighborhood of Guram Gaprindashvili's house, they approached the once-cultivated area with the excavators of Georgian Manganese for the second time and slowly encroached on his house. “Ore has been left under the yards and houses around me. They want to re-excavate these places. I don't want to have to relocate a second time,” Guram Gaprindashvili told Mountain Stories. He is supported by non-governmental organizations Green Alternative, Center of Civil Activities, and Chiatura of the Future.

According to Article 29 of the Constitution of Georgia, everyone has the right to live in a healthy environment, and to enjoy the natural environment and public space. The investigative film by Mountain Stories shows that this article of the constitution does not apply in the municipality of Chiatura.

In 2017, the European Court of Human Rights decided on the case “Jugheli and others. v. Georgia”. The petitioners argued that the thermal power plant located near their homes posed a threat to their health and well-being.

The European Court noted in its ruling:

“Even if we assume that the air pollution did not cause substantial damage to the health of the plaintiffs, they at least became vulnerable to various diseases. There is no doubt that this has negatively affected their quality of life in their own home.

The interference with the plaintiff's rights reached a sufficient degree to fall within the protection of Article 8 of the Convention. The main essence of this case is the absence of a legislative framework regulating the hazardous activities of the thermal power plant and, as a result, the government's failure to solve the problem of air pollution.

States must adopt appropriate regulations regarding hazardous activities, taking into account their specific characteristics and possible risk levels; in particular, the issuance of licenses, arrangement of the quarry, operation, security, and activity supervision should be regulated.

Regulations should be binding on all relevant entities so that they can take measures to protect those who may be exposed to risks. In the case under consideration, the absence of such legislative regulation resulted in the operation of the thermal power plant without observing the upholding necessary safety norms.

The existing situation was further exacerbated by the government's passive attitude towards the problem of the residents. The disputed situation was not the result of a sudden development of events but was a situation caused by a long-standing problem known to the relevant authorities. However, although the thermal power plant was ordered to install appropriate filters and cleaning devices to reduce the impact of toxic substances released into the air on the residents of the building, the competent agencies never took effective measures to control the fulfillment of the said request.

Even though the national authorities have an area of free assessment in matters of environmental protection, the European Court considers that in the case in question, the respondent state failed to maintain a fair balance between the public interest to have an operating thermal power plant and the applicants' right to their own housing and private life.”

Air pollution in the villages of Chiatura due to the uncontrolled activities of Georgian Manganese is confirmed by several criminal cases formally initiated in the prosecutor's office. Manipulating the fact that the conclusions of the air quality inspection are part of the criminal case file and “publicizing it will hinder the investigation”, Mountain Stories was unlawfully denied access to public records. That's why the publication has a pending lawsuit against the Department of Environmental Supervision, the General Prosecutor's Office, and the investigative service of the Ministry of Finance for 6 months in the Tbilisi City Court. According to the legislation, the judge is obliged to consider the case within a maximum of 5 months, however, not even the first session has been scheduled yet.

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