Turkey, ancient Anatolia, has long been a land of great interest to geologists because of its tremendous mineral resources, including copper, tin, and chromium. But it failed to receive adequate attention for its both known and yet-to-be-found gold deposits.
Turkey lies at a rich orogenic belt that formed by the millennia-long convergence between the Thetys sea, Eurasia, and the African continent. As a result, ancient Anatolians were among the first humans who discovered metal; then extracted and smelted it, ushering to the so-called Copper Age.
Gold Mining in Ancient Anatolia
According to research conducted in 1990, gold mining was practiced in Western Anatolia as far back as the 4th millennium BC. Many slags from gold and silver smelting dating back to that time have been located in the Kütahyan region.
There is evidence of copper and tin mining in Anatolia dating back to 6000 BC but the earliest gold artifacts unearthed in Anatolia date back to 3000 BC. A great case is one iron blade with a gold handle dating from the third millennium B.C. it was discovered at Hüyük, in Corum province of Turkey.
In 2000 BC - 500 BC, Lydia Kingdom ruled over the territory, now part of western Turkey. Under Lydian rule, gold casting techniques were further developed, and Manisa-Sardis became the first in the world to produce gold and silver coins.
Until 1500 BC, all of the gold found was alluvial, and sand panning was the principal extraction technique. The Mercury amalgamation method was developed in Sardis during the Lydian time. It changed the status of Sardis from being a mining center to being a trading center.
The Byzantine empire established the first gold mine in Anatolia and the Balkan region of Turkey, and gold became the standard currency in this period.
There are several mentions of active gold mining in Anatolia from Arab travelers and geographers around 1000 BC. A notable example is; Al Ishtahri, who reported several gold mines in Taron in 951 BC, which is now part of Muş province.
Archeologists have also found gold objects from the old Hittite period between 1700-1400 BC.
Gold Mining in Turkey During Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman period was inevitably the most golden era in the history of Turkey. Ottoman sultans exploited the mineral resources of the Turkish Empire to their maximum during this period.
The first significant mines in Ottoman-era open in the cities of Diyarbakir and Van, which remained popular throughout history.
In the 15th century Ottoman ruler, Fatih Sultan Mehmed issued gold coins in the empire. He then regularized gold by establishing an organized system. Gold inspectors were put in place to monitor every ounce so the currency would stay strong.
Despite enticing gold deposits, Turkey's gold mining fell off after the mid-nineteenth century. As a result, by the end of the twentieth century, Turkey was no longer producing any gold. It even had to import gold from Canada and South Africa to fulfill demand in the country.
Gold Mining in Modern Era
In the last decade, the gold mining industry in Turkey has shown signs of resurgence. Since 2011 Turkey has established a steady climb in gold production. The primary source of the increase is from new mining sites that are still being discovered today. In the last decade, Turkey has mined total gold than all of the gold.
Numerous gold mines are operational in Turkey these days, some of these include;
Usak- Kisladag Gold Mine, which was opened in 2006, showed great potential for the gold mining industry in Turkey.
Mastra Gold mine is producing gold in the Northwest part of the country.
Another famous gold mine, 'Copler,' is located in the Eastern region of Turkey.
A massive reserve of 20-ton gold reserve was announced in the northwestern Marmara region in December 2020.
As of June 2021, a vast reserve worth 1.2 billion dollars has been discovered in the Agri province of Turkey.
Turkey now ranks 12th in the world in terms of gold production. And as more sites are being discovered, it could very well climb to the top five. Although Turkey has a long history of gold mining, the total amount of gold extracted till now is just a fraction of its reserves.
It's estimated that Turkey has 800 tons of gold which still remains undiscovered. Owing to its enormous potential, Turkey has caught the attention of investors from all around the world. It is ready to become the next gold-mining giant.