The Georgian Manganese (GM), the company behind the mining works in Shukruti village of western Chiatura municipality, Imereti region, said on May 20 it is ready to meet locals’ demands of the damage compensation.
Shukruti locals have been protesting for over 90 days now, alleging that nearby mining activities lead to the sinking soil and consequently, the destruction of their homes and orchards. Since May 11, some of the protesters have sewed up their lips as a radical form of protest.
Locals’ demands include fair compensation based on property value estimates carried out by the Levan Samkharauli National Forensics Bureau “as specified by law,” state-brokered agreement between them and the company, and termination of “unlawful” persecution against the protesters.
According to locals, destructive mining works in the village had been ceased after Soviet years, only to resume some six years ago after a commercial company entered the area. The mining is carried out by Shukruti+ company, a contractor of Georgian Manganese, the industrial giant with key subsidiary enterprises across Georgia.
Villagers say 70% of homes in Shukruti are in unlivable conditions, noting “people here fear each day and night.” Giorgi Neparidze, Shukruti local, said “each resident in Chiatura and nearby villages has to live in inhumane, unbearable conditions, the entire Chiatura faces disaster, not merely our village.”
Giorgi Neparidze also said earlier that protesters had been spending nights in tents and had even blocked mine entrances, but works resumed after police used force. „Afterwards, threats started coming [from the company]: we will burn you, extinguish you, if you don’t stop,” he said, adding that four protesters have been later charged with “unlawful interference with the activities of the company” and are currently released on bail.
He also accused the Georgian authorities of negligence, claiming nobody from the government approached them since the villagers sewed up their lips in protest. Neparidze further said the company was not willing to estimate their property value as specified by law, relying instead on arbitrary and “unclear” estimates.
Social Justice Center, a CSO monitoring the protests, said on May 21 that “vague, untransparent” accountability and supervision practices established between the state and Georgian Manganese and its contractors make fair calculation and administration of compensations impossible. The CSO also approached the State Department of Environmental Supervision and the National Agency of Mines to immediately start overseeing GM’s activities.
Company’s Arguments and Concessions
Georgian Manganese called false the reports that the company in charge of mining activities “causes damage for Shukruti residents and refuses to properly compensate them,” claiming the allegations “only serve to mislead the public.”
However, the company said on May 20 it was ready to request Samkharauli Forensics Bureau to estimate the due compensation, as demanded by protesters, under the condition that “the stalled negotiation over the compensation with these residents moves into a legal domain and the existing dispute is resolved through justice.”
According to the GM, the contractor company has been negotiating with locals over the damage since 2019, which led to a memorandum signed by the majority of the villagers. The company said an independent expert was invited upon villagers’ request to carry out value assessments. “Despite the memorandum, part of the population disagreed with the estimates and resorted to protests.”
Shukruti+ has paid up to GEL 2 mln (USD 600,000) in compensations since June 2020, GM asserted, adding that the company remains ready to conclude individual treaties with those protesting. The company also noted that the amount of compensation estimated by a private auditor “far exceeds” the actual market price of villagers’ properties, and, on top of that, the respective properties continue to be owned by locals.