At first glance, it seems like an odd pairing. Granted, we don’t often hear about mining and farming being discussed simultaneously, let alone how they can work together. But this unique relationship is being fostered right now at Eldorado Gold’s Efemçukuru operation in Turkey.
Efemçukuru is located within Izmir province, a region popular with tourists due to its rich history and scenic coast, but to locals it is also known for its fertile soils. This makes Izmir one of the regional backbones of the Turkish agricultural industry, which comprises roughly 23% of the national economy – employing over 3.5 million people. While wheat has typically been the go-to product, greater diversification has been encouraged in recent years.
Responding to this – the Efemçukuru mine launched the Tüprag Agriculture Company in 2010. Onur Demir, Public and Government Relations Manager at our Efemçukuru Mine explains that the core focus of the initiative is to introduce new crop varieties, and to encourage the development and adoption of more modern and sustainable agricultural practices within the region.
“Since our project started, our focus has been on products which are of high quality, high yield and high economic value. Our activities are concentrated on three main agricultural areas: grapes, olives and honey. The cooperative brings many benefits to the community as we share modern farming techniques and knowledge to help improve crops, and we employ 17 locals to manage over 20 hectares of grapes within the mine site and over 16 hectares of olive trees off site,” says Onur.
While Efemçukuru’s principal product is gold – you could say that since the creation of the Agricultural Development Cooperative, the land on which it sits also yields the following products on an annual basis:
- 50 tons of wine-vintage grapes, producing crowd-pleasers such as cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, and 25 tons of edible grapes.
- 12,000 litres of olive oil, produced from approximately 3,250 trees. These include 2,050 adult trees and 1,200 young trees. Processing for 2020 is in progress and yield up to 20,000 litres.
- Over 350kg of high-quality, organic honey from 50 beehives.
- 800 young walnut trees are also growing, which span 5 hectares between Efemçukuru village and site.
These crops are supported by modern agricultural techniques, such as drip irrigation systems and impregnated wood poles, allowing the vines to grow off the ground thus yielding better crops. These techniques are passed on to the farmers in the region, who, through the cooperative, represent over 170 registered members producing approximately 2,000 tonnes of grapes every year. The cooperative also helps them negotiate better prices for their yields and organizes grape festivals where they can further promote their produce.
“Through the Efemçukuru Agricultural Development Cooperative we have been able to support local farmers and producers with agricultural advice and the promotion of our region’s products,” says Onur. “And we have also been able to demonstrate that local agricultural activities, crops and products can co-exist with our mining activities. Through innovation and partnership, these skills will ensure that the lands surrounding Efemçukuru can continue to support the local region – beyond gold production and for years to come.”