Located at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, Turkey has a rich history and in the 21st century has potential as an important player in the global mining industry.
Turkey stretches around 1600 km east to west, with a shorter north-south profile of around 600 km. Aside from near the coastal areas – Turkey boasts 8300 km of coastline – the country is generally mountainous, with roughly one quarter of the country having geography above 1200 m.
The capital, Ankara, is in the north-west of the country, but Turkey’s most populous and arguably most famous city is Istanbul, which spans the Bosphorus Strait and is home to around 15 million people. The majority of people in modern Turkey live in towns and cities, with the country urbanising significantly throughout the mid–late 20th century.
With the formation of the modern Turkish state in 1923, Turkey’s economy has comprised a mixture of state and private enterprises. Services and industry – including mining – have overtaken Turkey’s agricultural sector to be the main drivers of the economy.
Broadly speaking, the World Bank notes that despite generally positive economic progress over the last 20 years, Turkey’s economy remains vulnerable. This is in part attributable to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and geopolitical tensions, but also a factor of rising inflation, unemployment, and contracting investment.
Prior to WWII, Turkey remained economically insular and did not encourage foreign investment. However, in the years following the war, foreign influence, aid and investment increased. Austrade notes that today ‘the government’s priority is to encourage private investment and develop mining into one of the country’s leading industries.’
Mining in Turkey
Turkey has significant untapped potential when it comes to the resources industry, with 40 per cent of prospective areas still to be explored.
Turkey is considered the largest gold producer in Europe, and produced 37 tonnes of gold in 2019 (according to the World Gold Council). The Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural resources estimates that in the modern era there has been $2.5 billion dollars worth of exploration and investment in Turkey’s gold sector. This equates to direct employment of more than 6000 people and indirect employment of many more.
Recently, the country’s Energy and Natural Resources minister, Fatih Dönmez, has said Turkey is aiming to produce 100 tons of gold per annum by 2025. Speaking to Turkish Newspaper Hurriyet Daily News in September 2020, Dönmez noted concerted gold exploration efforts: ‘We have X-rayed all around Turkey with geophysical aerial imaging that started in 2017 and finished in 2018. The nationwide study has been concluded now. We have been conducting 1 million meters of drilling [for gold] on average every year since then.’
According to the same article, the country will also look to produce lithium for the first time in 2020, via a facility in central Turkey that will extract lithium from boron waste.
Coal is another significant resource for Turkey. According to the Ministry’s website, Turkey has reserves of 20.7 billion tons of lignite, asphaltite and hard coal. In 2018, Turkey produced 81 million tons of salable lignite, 1.1 million tons of hard coal and 1.8 million tons of asphaltite. Much of the coal produced by Turkey is used internally for energy rather than exported.
According to Austrade, there is significant international interest in Turkey’s mining sector, with more than 20 overseas minerals companies currently active in Turkey – including some from Australia. Importantly, Austrade expects Turkey’s mining sector to continue to grow, and with this growth to see an increase in demand of associated products and services. ‘[There are] significant opportunities in upgrading existing facilities and consulting. This applies particularly to the fields of mine safety, mine planning, project management, coal-bed methane drilling and extraction services.’
The National Resources and Reserves Reporting Committee (UMREK) outlines best practice for public reporting of exploration results, and is a member of the Committee for Mineral Reserves International Reporting Standards (CRIRSCO).
The industry is represented by the Turkish Miners Association (TMD), founded in 1948 and established to act on behalf of both the public and private mining sectors. AusIMM currently has around 40 members living and working in Turkey.
Information in this snapshot was gathered from the following resources: