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Created on: 2017-03-13 10:23:05
Last update: 2017-04-26 10:04:52 BankTrack
Yann Louvel - BankTrack
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The Amasra coal mine and power station is an energy project on the Black Sea coast next to the town of Amasra in Turkey's Bartın province. The power station is a proposed 1,320 MW 'ultra-supercritical' coal plant project, consisting of two units of 660 MW each that would use hard coal (anthracite) as a feedstock. It is planned by Hema Enerji, a subsidiary of Turkey’s Hattat Holdings Energy Group.
The project plans have changed several times since the initial agreement in 2005 because of problems with attracting financiers and partners, difficulties in aligning the project with environmental regulations and the huge opposition of local movements. Over the last 12 years, local communities in Amasra and beyond have fought against the coal power plant.
There are currently two different court cases initiated by Bartın Platformu – a broad civil society grouping consisting of 120 non-governmental organisations and various municipalities – against the project: one concerning its environmental impact assessment (EIA) and the other against the change of the project's initial environmental plan.
According to plans from the project sponsor, the nearby Amasra B coal mine should extract the coal required to fuel the coal plant. Hema has rented the 56 million tonnes of hard coal reserves from the state for 20 years for mining, targeting the extraction of 10 million tonnes per year, but has not extracted any coal from the mine since 2005. The expansion of Tarlaağzı harbour is included in the coal plant project’s EIA, which implies that the company intends to import coal for the power plant.
In 2005, Hema signed a royalty agreement with the state agency Turkish Hard Coal Enterprises (TTK) for the Amasra B coal mine site, with the aim of extracting 56 million tons of hard coal over 20 years. The company failed to inform residents of their plans to build a coal power plant alongside the mine until their application to Turkey's Energy Market Regulatory Agency (EPDK) in 2006. They sought original permission for a plant of 600 MW which, in 2009, was then increased to 2,640 MW, with the option to increase further up to 6,400 MW. Ultimately, the company applied for pre-licenses for two power plants of 1,320 MW each, one next to the other: the Bartın and Amasra power plants.
In response, local communities formed the Bartın Platformu, which consists of 120 non-governmental organisations and different municipalities. This broad platform has consistently organised a wide range of demonstrations and protests.
History of the EIA process
The project EIA which was first submitted in 2009 was rejected on the grounds of missing documentation. Following this setback, the company decided to divide the project and submit different EIA reports for each of the power plant, the ash storage area, the harbour, the coal preparation facility and an electricity transmission line. As all these individual facets are part of the same project, and thus their cumulative impacts ought to be considered, separate EIA submissions are unlawful.
In 2013, the Ministry of Forestry found the EIA to be inadequate due to the project’s potential adverse environmental impacts on the town of Amasra. However, in June 2014, the final EIA report was submitted – separately, as described above. Under Turkish law, in the ten days following the final EIA of a project, citizens have the right to object to it. In these 10 days, the people of Amasra and Bartın managed to collect 42,000 individual objection letters. In spite of all these objections, and the Ministry of Forestry’s negative opinion, the EIA was approved in 2015 – to immediately challenge this, a court case with 2,019 individual plaintiffs was initiated straight away by Bartın Platform’s attorneys. This is a record number of individual plaintiffs in an environmental court case in Turkey.
In January 2016, the Engineering, Procurement and Construction contract (EPC) was signed between Hema Elektrik Üretim Anonim Sirketi (the project owner) and the consortium. It consists of the consortium leader Dongfang Elektrik Corporation Lmt. (DEC lmt, China), Dongfang Elektrik Turkiye A.S. (DEC Turkey) and Hattat Insaat. The contract price is a lump sum of RMB 6,018,188,000 (~ $914,624,000) of which DEC lmt receives RMB 3,592,148,000 + $22 million, DEC Turkey receives $66 million, and $295 million goes to Hattat Insaat.
In August 2016, Hattat Holding’s chairman, Mehmet Hattat, issued a press release clearly stating that, because of so much opposition on the ground, the project’s EIA process is taking too long and that the promoters are finding it difficult to attract international finance because of these delays (answer from Bartin Platform on this page).
However, according to Bartın Platformu, in February 2017 Credit Suisse was approached by the company for financing for the coal mine, and a Turkish consultancy firm, 2U1K, conducted a survey and interviewed local communities on behalf of the Swiss bank.
What must happen
The project impacts for the local ecology, economy and community are expected to be severe and long-lasting. They include the clearing of forests, impacts on local livelihoods based on small-scale farming and fishing, and the coal plant’s contribution to climate change .
Banks and financial institutions should avoid financing the coal power plant and the mine, and the Turkish authorities should reject the project’s EIA.
Community impacts: According to the Western Black Sea Development Agency, the coal power plant threatens the local economy. Small-scale farming, fishing and tourism are major sources of income in the surrounding villages of Gömü, Tarlaağzı and Amasra.
Pollution from the plant: Pollution due to mining and the power plant would increase emissions of carcinogenic particles and, hence, threaten the health and livelihoods of locals. Amasra’s geographical location makes it subject to an inversion effect, a meteorological deviation that captures emitted particles and fine dust and allows them to settle on the town of Amasra. As Professor Erdoğan Atmış has explained, "Air cannot rise in Amasra due to the temperature difference between land and sea surfaces. The fog layer descends and stays suspended in the air if there is a mountain. If you emit carbon dioxide or sulphur in a place like this, it will mix into the atmosphere, come down and settle. This is a serious, lethal danger."
The plant emissions woukd further affect small-scale farming, e.g. strawberry farming and hazelnut harvesting. Ash and toxic elements will settle on fields and contaminate the plants.
Impact on fish stocks: The coal plant's cooling water would be taken from the same source where drinking water for the local villages is withdrawn. Bartın Municipality, which is responsible for the distribution of drinking water, has won a court case against the company on the grounds of ineligibility to use the same water source for cooling the plant. The heated water from the coal plant's turbines would then be expelled into the Black Sea where it would endanger aquatic life. This inflow of heated water from the power plant would affect local fish stocks and is thus raising the fears of local fishermen whose income depends on fishing. Moreover, the fishermen use the small fishing port in Tarlaağzı which faces restructuring in order to give way to the planned harbour. In the project EIA, Hema admits that "the water quality of the port is likely to be affected by the construction activities and ongoing activities during the hard coal mine project" (EIA, page 22).
Impacts on tourism: The increasing importance of tourism for the region would be undermined by the coal plant and beaches would have to be destroyed to make way for the harbour. The town of Amasra is temporarily on the UNESCO World Heritage list because parts of the ancient town date back to the Byzantine age – it is visited by 250,000 people every year. Turkey's Tourism Strategy 2023 has proposed the region around the plant to become an eco-tourism region and, in the 2007-13 Tourism Action Plan, the region was placed in the "Ecotourism Focused Development Zone".
The operations of the plant, the mine, the port and associated transportation would also involve noise pollution that could have negative impacts on the health of locals as well as Amasra's appeal as a torist location. As trucks would have to continue transportation throughout the night, "the noise levels are expected to exceed both national and IFC standards" (EIA, page 23).
Until the port started to operate, the EIA states that coal would be transported by lorries via main roads which pass small villages and schools. These may be affected by the pollution resulting from such transportation.
Most parts of the required areas have already been purchased by Hema, but 11 parcels of land remain to be expropriated. Further resettlements of local villages will result from the plant's construction.
While the investors are placing emphasis on the potential economic benefits which could accrue from the project, such as the standard implied 'benefit' of an increase in job opportunities for locals, the investors' proposed actions suggest something different: the project is based primarily on foreign supplies of technology, capital, employees, partners and even imported coal. The overwhelming negative consequences for the local economy which the plant would involve can not be compensated for or offest by any 'short-term' benefits it may (or may not) bring.
Forest impacts: To make room for the power plant project (including the mine, industrial facilities and power lines), large areas of forest land would have to be felled. The land to be allocated for the power plant alone would require 380 hectares of natural forest to be cleared, next to the Küre Mountains national park. Other associated facilities would require additional hundreds of hectares of forest land to be cleared.
Hurriyet Daily News reported in 2014 that most sections of the transmission line, which would connect the plant to the national grid, would pass through forest ecosystems. The authorities have already begun cutting down trees, thereby damaging sensitive parts of the ecosystem.
Air impacts: Coal power plants emit large amounts of greenhouse gases which cause climate change. Furthermore, they also emit gases and fine dust that can penetrate the lungs and cause respiratory diseases. To date, the project sponsor has not disclosed an appropriate desulphurisation system to filter out nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and dioxide, and fine dust and ash. Without these filters, toxic particles would fall around the plant and increase health issues for local residents.
Waste concerns: The project EIA report is not clear about what will be done with the coal launder facility’s dangerous waste. The previously established practice of dumping waste from coal facilities in ash dams in the middle of forests in the Aegean region of Turkey provides major reason for concern regarding the proposed Amasra project and its intended approach to coal ash disposal.
Nine mine workers have died underground during the first 12 years of the mining project.
Amasra is also home to some Genoise castles – these castles have been on the UNESCO temporary World Heritage list since 2014.
The windy coasts of the Black Sea are much better suited to wind power plants.
Legal forms of intervention and opposition by local residents against the evaluation of the EIA are being ignored, including the 42,000 collected signatures opposing the project from the region’s inhabitants.