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At the plenary sitting of the Parliament of Georgia held on 4 September 2013, the first day of the autumn session, MPs discussed various legislative initiatives and heard reports of several committees on their work performed over the year. Presenting the yearly report of his committee, Giorgi Tsagareishvili, Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, stated:  “The ecological situation is extremely grave in Chiatura. Business entities are breaking the law at every step of their activity, not only in the field of manganese processing but also in the processing of timber. We inspected their work and, unfortunately, major infringements were revealed. Relevant cases have been sent to the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia. Investigation of those cases is underway [...] We’re talking about millions of laris

of harm being done to the environment.”

FactCheck

inquired about the accuracy of the facts indicated in the statement and, intending to verify them, requested public information from the Parliamentary Committee on Environmental Protection and Natural Resources and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia.

As stated in the report of the Parliamentary Committee on Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, the Committee held 32 sittings in the period under review, among them four field sittings (Tbilisi, Tkibuli, Lagodekhi, Chiatura)  at which the Committee discussed 67 draft laws and examined on-site problems related to environmental protection.

Pursuant to the report, at the field session of 13 June 2013, the Committee discussed the severe ecological situation of Chiatura, triggered by the owner infringing the terms of the licence. In particular, manganese is being extracted using an open-pit mining technique without the territory of extraction being recultivated. Significant breaches can be observed in the case of underground mining as well as security measures are not being fully implemented and former mine lands are not being conserved. The Committee recommended that the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection check if the terms of the licence issued to Georgian Manganese LTD, the company utilising the natural resources in and around Chiatura, are being met and, in the case of violations being exposed, enforce measures defined by the law.

As reported by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection in response to our letter, the Department of Environmental Protection Supervision carried through a selective inspection of the implementation of the terms defined by the licence N100330 (extraction of manganese) authorising Georgian Manganese LTD to extract the natural resources. The inspection revealed violations of environmental protection legislation in the mining work of Chiatura Municipality villages – Perevisa and Rgani – performed by Georgian Manganese LTD in the years 2007-2013. Specifically, the Ministry informs that during the pit works the fertile layer of land was removed and stored away from the area of 9.36 ha which resulted in both the degradation and deterioration of the soil. The harm inflicted to the environment totalled GEL 2,079,582.34 according to the estimate by the Ministry. Accordingly, materials are being prepared to be sent to relevant law enforcement agencies.

The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection also inspected if Wood Export LTD was meeting the terms defined by the licence N1000013 authorising it to process timber and by the legislation on environmental protection. The inspection uncovered unlawful cutting of wood and the fact of not cleaning up the territory following the cutting. The Ministry assessed the harm done to the environment at GEL 191,701.25. The damage assessment information has been sent to the Regional Prosecutor’s Office of Chiatura.

The Ministry also exposed one fact of a licentiate infringing the procedures of the documentation and the allocation of special signs verifying the timber’s origin as well as unlawful transportation of cut wood which resulted in harm to the environment amounting to GEL 333,000.

The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection assesses the harm done to the environment resulting from all of the abovementioned infringements to total GEL 2,271,316.59. One case (on Wood Export LTD) was sent to the Regional Prosecutor’s Office and another case (Georgian Manganese LTD) is being prepared to be sent to relevant law enforcement agencies. In total, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection inspected two business entities in Chiatura:  Georgian Manganese LTD and Georgian Export LTD. It also uncovered ten facts of the terms defined in the mining licence being infringed – yearly reports not being submitted.

Conclusion

As reported by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection, currently there are 18 business entities operating in Chiatura which have the authorisation to affect the environment, 15 departments engaged in the sawing of round logs, 41 licences issued permitting mining work and two special licences on timber processing.  Over the current year the Ministry inspected two business entities in Chiatura: Georgian Manganese LTD and Wood Export LTD. The Ministry also uncovered ten facts of the terms defined in the mining licence being infringed – yearly reports not being submitted.

The Ministry further exposed one fact of a licentiate infringing the procedures of the documentation and the allocation of special signs verifying the timber’s origin as well as one fact of unlawful transportation of cut wood.

The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection assesses the harm done to the environment resulting from the infringements to total GEL 2,271,316.59.

One case (Wood Export LTD) has been sent to the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Chiatura while the process of sending materials on another case (concerning Georgian Manganese LTD) is still underway.

Consequently, FactCheck rates the statement of Giorgi Tsagareishvili, Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, “The ecological situation is extremely grave in Chiatura. Business entities are breaking the law at every step of their activity, not only in the field of manganese processing but also in the processing of timber. We inspected their work and, unfortunately, major infringements were revealed. Relevant cases have been sent to the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia. Investigation of those cases is underway [...] We’re talking about millions of laris of harm being done to environment,” to be TRUE.