RUSSIAN gold miner RMG Gold has been given the green light to develop a nine hectare site in south-eastern Georgia which may contain the remnants of one of the world’s oldest gold mines.
A joint archaeological dig by the National Museum of Georgia and German Mining Museum in 2004 unearthed caves and mining tools at Sakdrisi-Kachagiani, believed by some to be 5400 years old. The site was granted cultural heritage status in 2006.
In March, a Georgian National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation investigation concluded that “the ancient gold mine or the monument of universal significance was not proved to exist” and withdrew Sakdrisi’s cultural heritage status.
“The Government of Georgia considers it impracticable to impede employment of thousands of people and improvement of business environment based on a myth,” the agency stated.
Unity of Archaeologists of Georgia director Giorgi Gagishvili said if the project had not been approved, the RMG Gold would have withdrawn from Georgia, taking with it about 4000 jobs and about US$30 million per year in state budget taxes.
RMG Gold has invested an estimated $300 million into the diminutive Georgian economy – which has an unemployment rate of about 16 per cent – according to EurasiaNet.org.
RMG Gold Health, Safety and Environment department head Mikheil Kvaratskhelia told EurasiaNet it would be “a couple of years” before the Sakdrisi-Kachagiani site was blasted for mining.
The Georgian National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation, alongside independent international experts, would monitor any works implement by the miner on the site.
“In case of some scientific discovery on the territory of the mine, the agency will conduct relevant research and based on the decision by competent commission, excavated artefacts will be placed at the existing museum or the new institution created especially for this purpose,” it stated.