By Ellsworth Dickson
In an interview with Resource World magazine, H.E. Mithat Cansız, Deputy Minister of Energy and Natural Resources of Republic of Turkey, provided insight as to how his government is taking steps to encourage mineral exploration and mining.
RESOURCE WORLD: What metals and minerals worth exploring for in Turkey?
MITHAT CANSIZ: Turkey has a very important geological position being located on the Alpine-Himalayan Orogenic Belt. The crustal layer, where our country stands on, has been subjected to orogeny, subsidence, uplift and tectonism in vertical and horizontal directions in various geological periods. As a result of these movements, hundreds of kilometres of faults and thousands of small-scale fault zones related to these faults have been formed. Because of this intense tectonic activity, Turkey has a complex geological structure, thus a diversified mineral potential.
A total of 77 of the 90 minerals that are used in industry throughout the world can be found in our country. Whilst exploration and research activities are being carried out continuously in Turkey, a significant portion of the country’s 783,000 km2 of surface area is still waiting for explorers and investors.
Turkey, which has 73% of the world’s boron resources, also has rich chromium deposits. Primary metallic minerals in our country include gold, copper, silver, molybdenum, lead, zinc, nickel, cobalt and more. Underlining the fact that our country also has a high potential of rare earth elements and natural stones, we can list other minerals such as marble, travertine, feldspar and various industrial salts. Also our lignite potential is substantial.
RW: Is the mining sector in Turkey growing?
MC: Like other sectors, the mining industry keeps developing in Turkey. With an increase of 50% compared to previous years, the share of the mining sector in our GNP is about 1.2%. Our main goal is to increase this rate to 4% within five years.
I would like to answer this question from the development of our country’s gold mining in particular. Whilst there was no gold mining facility in our country in the beginning of 21st century, we have established 15 gold operating facilities in 18 years – actually not a long time for the mining sector. Our gold production in 2018 was 27.1 tons and our country is currently one of the biggest gold producers in Europe. Our target for 2019 is to exceed 30 tons.
Along with the quantitative growth, I must also mention that our country’s mining sector has also met the requirements in terms of technical infrastructure. Many legislative and technical innovations have been implemented in order to ensure the continuity of the development trend in mining.
RW: Is the government of Turkey making efforts to attract mineral explorers?
MC: First of all, I would like to point out that investors operating in our mining industry are providing undeniable contributions to our country. In order to attract more investors to Turkey, we explain the mining potential of Turkey in every international platform. In our mining sector, there are currently 119 foreign investors and we continue our efforts to increase this number.
For this purpose, we established the National Resources and Reserves Reporting Committee (UMREK) in order to meet the financing needs of investors more easily and reliably. We have completed our membership process to CRIRSCO, the international umbrella organization in this field. Turkey is currently the 13th member of CRIRSCO, and the first in Eurasia. In addition, with the new law amendments that came into effect recently, we expanded the scope of the incentives that had been provided for investors.
We continue to work on new incentives and company models to attract domestic and foreign investors’ attention to Turkey’s mining sector. We have prepared the Mining Investment Guide for the promotion of our mining industry. In order to promote the geological structure, mining potential and mining sector in the best way, we joined PDAC 2019 in Toronto for the first time with high level managers and a strong personnel team to represent our Ministry. Our international promotions and investor invitations will continue.
RW: Can foreign mineral explorers have confidence in Turkey’s regulations on proprietary rights?
MC: The proprietary rights on licenses owned by mining investors are guaranteed by the laws and regulations in effect. It is clearly explained in the relevant laws and regulations under what conditions these rights will be terminated without making discrimination between domestic and foreign investors. I would like to underline that the ownership of the licenses cannot be terminated under any conditions except for the cases described in the laws and regulations.
As a result, proprietary rights of the licenses belonging to all domestic and foreign companies investing in Turkey are under state guarantee.
RW: Does Turkey have clear regulations regarding exploration, mine building and mining operations?
MC: The prerequisites and other necessary obligations before and during the execution of all mining activities in Turkey are mentioned in the Mining Law and other relevant legislation step by step and clearly. Again, there is a document entitled Mining Regulations in which the articles in the Mining Law are clearly explained. Thus, there is no uncertainty regarding the obligations, laws and operational side of mining activities.
RW: Does the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources have a geology department where explorers can access information?
MC: The Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, which is the sole governmental umbrella body, has separate General Directorates where all investors engaged in mining activities can access all necessary information from mining exploration / research to operation. General Directorate of Mineral Research and Exploration (MTA), which is the centre of all geological researches and the headquarters where the foundation that form the basic reference of mining in our country, has been prepared.
Data obtained from exploration and research activities related to the geology of our country is shared with public and private sector. MTA has the Turkey Geoscience and Core Data Bank (TUVEK) which has an extremely modern scientific design under its roof. TUVEK is a data bank that contains all geological studies, core and cuttings samples in Turkey which contains the basic data for investors.
RW: Does a foreign mineral explorer need to complete a certain amount of work with a time limit?
MC: Our Mining Law divides minerals into five main groups. Time periods (limits) and windows for exploration and operation are defined clearly according to these groups. The length of exploration licences differs from two to nine years. For example, exploration licences of natural stones are minimum two years and for metallic ores, the exploration period can be extended to nine years. At the end of exploration period, investors are obligated to deliver a resource and deposit report in order to move on with the operation phase. The law also defines the length of operation licenses from 5 to 99 years. Durations of exploration and operation licenses are reasonable, and are defined by considering the needs of investors.
RW: Is there reasonable permitting time for exploration and mining projects?
MC: Mining Law defines the mandatory permits prior to operational activities. These permits contain necessities for environmental and human health and the permits are granted by Ministries related to agriculture, environment, forestry etc. As described under above answer, there are specific and reasonable time windows at every phase of mining activities.
RW: Does Turkey have good environmental regulations?
MC: Environmental regulations are formed and conducted by The Ministry of Environment and Urbanization under the content of related legislations. These legislations are in compliance with the European Union legal acquis. An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Report is required prior to mining activities. No operation permit is granted without EIA Report. Furthermore, The Ministry of Environment and Urbanization strictly inspects mining operations.
RW: With Turkey sharing a border with Syria and some terrorist incidents having taken place, are the hostilities far removed from areas that are prospective for minerals?
MC: As reported worldwide, there have been certain adverse incidents in our southern neighbour Syria and these are happening inside the borders of Syria. Some exceptional incidents inside our borders resulting from Syrian actions are eliminated with the necessary precautions taken. Turkey has very high standards in terms of justice and homeland security. Therefore, there are no problems for mining investors to be concerned about. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Some Canadian mining companies have projects in the western part of the country such as Alamos Gold that report being comfortable working there.)
RW: Does Turkey have a reasonable amount of infrastructure in place such as roads and electric power?
MC: The Republic of Turkey, which will celebrate its hundredth anniversary in 2023, has a deep-rooted history. It is ranked 17th among the greatest economies in the world with a GDNP of US$852 billion. Our country has reached the infrastructural standards (along with many others) of developed countries. Actually, we even outstripped some of the European Union members. Turkey stands as a natural bridge and a corridor for energy between Asia and Europe due to its geopolitical location. Our country follows and participates in the improvement of the developments in the technology from transportation to communications simultaneously with the world and opens these developments to public use.
Turkey, which ranked in the upper positions among many OECD countries, has 67,333 km of road networks (63,415 km covered with asphalt and surface dressing). In addition, railroad has reached 12,608 km, including 1,213 km of high-speed railway. Turkish Airlines, a world-class operation, flies to 381 different destinations worldwide and ranks at number one in terms of the number of destinations. The installed electrical power of Turkey has reached 88,000 MW. Our country, an applicant for the EU, is also a member of many international organizations like UN, NATO, OECD and Customs Union.