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Georgian Manganese Sues Shukruti Residents, Demands Ban on Protests Near Mine

The Russian law will suppress independent media and civil society organizations in Georgia, as it happened in Putin's Russia.

When you are oppressed, there will be no one to cover your problem and stand by you.

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Wednesday, 22 May 2024 18:33 hits 37 times
Photo © Mtisambebi
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Photo © Mtisambebi

While critical media, public organizations, and the public's attention are focused on the Russian Law on so-called Foreign Agents the company Georgian Manganese has sued the Shukruti village residents, whose houses are being destroyed as a result of uncontrolled manganese mining. Georgian Manganese is demanding that Shukruti residents be prohibited from protesting at the enterprise. For the 70th day, the victims have been holding a continuous, round-the-clock protest at the entrance to the Korokhnali mine.

Georgian Manganese is suing 14 people in court through its subcontractor, Magharoeli LLC. Two of them are deceased.

The main demands of the plaintiff are:

- The participants of the action should be prohibited from "implementing actions hindering the operation of the mine."

- The people of Shukruti should not interfere with the company even if it continues to mine manganese under their houses.

- "At the first request" of the participants of the action, their privately owned houses and plots are to be confiscated for four years and handed over to the company for manganese mining.

- The defendants should be instructed to hand over the said plots to the company empty - the owner must demolish and clear the land where the house or storage is standing.

Until the demands are met, the subcontractor of Georgian Manganese demanded the seizure of the property of the traffic lights under the pretext that the locals are not selling their private property in the dangerous zone for living and that the dispute with the new owners does not become difficult. The court did not satisfy the request for confiscation of the property.

Vladimer Kutateladze, the lawyer of the Center for Civic Activities who defends the interests of the participants in the ongoing protest at the Korokhnali mine, says that the Chiatura Magistrate's Court should not have accepted the claim of Magharoeli LLC in the proceedings at all.

"First of all, it should be noted that this is not a case for consideration by the magistrate court. The plaintiff's demands are groundless and illegal. The property, the possession of which they request to be transferred for 4 years, is not the property of the company. Nor do they have any documents that give rise to the right of ownership of the company or oblige the population to transfer the property. The plaintiff submitted to the court the 2021 memoranda, which are unilateral and contain cabal terms. At the time, the residents were not even introduced to this document but were told that if they wanted to compensate the damage caused to the company, they should sign on a blank sheet of paper. The memorandum does not include any specific record of the identity of the affected persons, the plots of land, the type of damage caused, the amount of compensation, or the terms of payment. In addition, an agreement had to be signed with each owner, which would define the compensation conditions in detail. Such an agreement was signed after a long protest, hunger strike, facial mutilation, and protest brought to the US Embassy.

The lawsuit also states the amount of money paid to some of the defendants, which was credited to them as an advance. With whom the contract was signed, it is specified that the property and the damage caused would be evaluated by the National Bureau of Forensic Expertise and the final amount would be deducted from the amount paid in advance. It was the obligation of the company to carry out the examination, which they did not fulfill, and the conclusion still does not exist," says lawyer Vladimer Kutateladze.

The participants of the rally believe that Georgian Manganese deliberately avoids conducting a forensic examination to avoid having to pay a large amount of money.

Georgian Manganese holds the license for manganese mining in Chiatura until 2047. The owner of the company (100% owner) is Georgian American Eloise, whose controlling package is owned by the Ukrainian billionaire Igor Kolomoisky, with about 4% belonging to the Georgian group of shareholders, close to the ruling party, Giorgi Kapanadze (aka Rizha).

For the 7th year, the Ministry of Environmental Protection has appointed a special state manager to Georgian Manganese LLC, due to the fact that a situation equal to an ecological disaster was created in Chiatura and needed urgent correction. In fact, the ecological situation in Chiatura has worsened significantly under the regime of special state management and is now in a critical situation.

It has been a few months since the representatives of the Ukrainian oligarch regained actual control of the enterprise, although no changes have been reflected in the business register so far.

On this topic: Chiatura – Zone of a Disaster [Investigation]

In December 2023, the license to mine manganese in Chiatura was appealed for the first time in 17 years. The 87-year-old Guram Gaprindashvili is the only person in Chiatura who dared to start a legal dispute over this problem and demands the cancellation of the license in the part of open pit mining. Guram Gaprindashvili's interests are protected by the Center for Civic Activities The Tbilisi City Court accepted the lawsuit.

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