Balya, a western Turkish town of about 13,000 people, prepares to file a lawsuit against France for old lead mines once run by a French company, claiming toxic waste left by the mining operations damaged flora and fauna in the town.
The town in Balıkesir province was home to a French-run mining company founded in 1892 that focused on extracting lead resources. After suspending its operations in the First World War, the mine resumed work in 1920 and was nationalized in 1940 after a sharp drop in lead prices drove it to near bankruptcy. Locals claim some 400,000 tons of lead extracted from the mine by the French company left about 4 million tons of toxic waste behind, which was dumped on the banks of a stream and eventually mixed with the stream's waters after heavy rains. Since then, locals have complained of the heavy stench of Sulphur engulfing the town and the mass deaths of fishes as well as the livestock drinking from the waters in the stream after each rainfall.
Balya Mayor Osman Kılıç said the French exploited resources for years and left the waste behind. Kılıç also stated that they contacted waste disposal companies but failed to reach an agreement for removal of the waste. The mayor said the French company paid "money" to locals - apparently to stop complaints against the pollution from the mine - in the past but that they were determined to seek compensation.