Can Turkey Give Up On Gold? – OpEd

One day, Solon visited Croesus in his palace in Sardis.

Croesus (r. 560-546 BC), famous for his enormous gold treasures, was the last king of Lydia, a region in Western Anatolia. According to Greek historian Herodotus, Croesus considered himself the happiest man in the World (World History Encyclopedia, 2024). Philosopher-statesman Solon, on the other hand, was one of the Seven Sages of Greece.

Croesus was anxious to show off his treasuries and, after Solon had inspected them, asked him who, of all the men he had met in his travels, he would call the happiest.

Solon answered, “Tellus of Athens.” Croesus, upset that he himself had not been named, asked why Tellus. Solon answered that Tellus had lived well and happily, had a beautiful family, and had died gloriously for Athens in battle.

Croesus, hoping he would at least be named second, then asked Solon who else he would consider the happiest of men. Again, the answer was not Croesus.

Croesus, angered now, shouted: “Am I not the happiest man in the world? Do you count my happiness as nothing?”

Solon replied calmly: “In truth, I count no man happy until his death, for no man can know what the gods may have in store for him.”

Croesus sent Solon away, thinking his reputation for wisdom exaggerated, but he would soon learn the truth of what Solon had said. The first misfortune to come upon Croesus was the death of his son, killed while hunting. And then Cyrus the Great, the powerful Persian king, attacked Croesus’ kingdom. Cyrus’ soldiers captured Sardis and its king. After the fall of Sardis, Croesus’ wife committed suicide and Croesus was dragged before Cyrus in chains.

There is no record of Croesus’ death. However, historians believe that Croesus was burned to death or committed suicide.

Gold had brought Croesus not happiness but pain.

On the last February 13th, we experienced another tragedy in the same Anatolian geography, where gold brought pain, not happiness.

At the Çöpler Gold Mine in the İliç district of Erzincan, one of the eastern cities of Türkiye, the ore mass, into which cyanide solution was injected in order to obtain gold, collapsed and flowed almost like a river, dragging everything in front of it. The volume of the cyanide-containing mass, which moved approximately 800 meters, was around 10 million cubic meters. In the disaster, nine workers working in the mine were buried under a cyanide-containing pile and never found again.

The place where the incident took place was 300 meters away from the ancient Euphrates River as the crow flies. Therefore, the public’s biggest fear was that the cyanide solution would mix with the river and affect life in the basin. The culvert covers were closed to prevent flowing material from reaching the river. However, it is still unknown to what extent the region has been affected.

The mine was operated by Anagold Mining Company, 80 percent of whose shares belonged to the US-based SSR Mining and 20 percent to the local Çalık Group. Shares of SSR Mining, traded on NASDAQ, Toronto and Australian stock exchanges, plummeted.

In the aftermath of the disaster, the reaction from a part of the public was that Türkiye should give up gold production. Those who held this view had three basic claims: First, this metal had no benefit to humanity – other than being an ornament – so it would be okay if it did not exist. Secondly, Türkiye was not able to generate significant income from gold mining anyway; most of the earnings went to companies and often foreign companies, as in this example. And thirdly, the gold fields in Türkiye were operated with a “colonial mining mentality”, and especially the use of cyanide posed serious dangers to the country’s people and nature.

The effects of the disaster that took place about a month ago on the public are gradually decreasing. However the question still remains: Can Türkiye give up this metal? In the following lines, I will try to find the answer to this question.

In fact, public perception of gold mining around the world is generally negative, but still, this metal is produced in almost half of nearly 200 countries (Federal Ministry of Finance of Austria, 2023). Last year, global production reached to 3,650 tons. Additionally, another 1,250 tons were recovered through recycling (World Gold Council, 2024a). Consequently, the total global gold supply in 2023 amounted to 4,900 tons. This means that there is a supply worth approximately 350 billion dollars at current prices.

So, what is all this gold used for?

First of all, the first argument of those who oppose gold production is largely correct: The industrial use of this metal is very limited. Only about 6 percent of the gold placed on the market last year was used for industrial or medical purposes. More than 90 percent of all the gold in the world is either worn on the arms or necks as jewelry, or sits unused under pillows or in bank vaults for savings purposes. If it were all vaporized at once, neither industry nor agriculture would be affected much.

The three biggest buyers of gold jewelry or bar and coin in the world are China, India and the USA, all with massive populations. Türkiye comes in fourth place. Citizens of this country purchased approximately 200 tons of gold in 2023 – in other words, an average of 2.3 grams per person (World Gold Council, 2024a). In Türkiye, where the average income level is around 13 thousand dollars, this per capita amount of gold is only lower than the three countries in the richest category.

Türkiye ranks at the top of countries with a fondness for gold jewelry. In terms of the amount purchased per capita each year, Türkiye is only behind the hydrocarbon-rich Gulf countries.

On the other hand, when we look at the amount of gold purchased for savings purposes in Türkiye, we encounter a much more striking picture: The biggest demand here again comes from China and India, but the demand of Türkiye, which is the third largest buyer, is by no means negligible even when compared to these two most populous countries. While China’s demand was 287 tons and India’s was 185 tons in 2023, Turkish citizens purchased 160 tons of gold bars and coins. Gold demand for savings alone in Türkiye is greater than Europe’s total demand. It is higher than the total demands of all the American continents, including the north, middle and south. Türkiye’s per capita demand here is 1.9 grams in 2023, less than only Switzerland in the World. Even the per capita demand in wealthy European Union countries cannot come close to Türkiye’s.

While Turkish citizens do not trust their own currency and turn to gold as well as foreign currencies as a means of savings, we cannot say that their state behaves differently. Türkiye holds 542 tons of gold reserves in the vaults of its central bank or treasury and ranks eleventh in the world with this reserve size (World Gold Council, 2024b).

After all, people living on Anatolian soil have always had a very special and emotional relationship with gold. Therefore, it would not be realistic to expect that gold production would not be carried out in a geography where people are so fond of gold, and in the country of Croesus and Midas, who turned everything they touched into gold.

Indeed, Türkiye has made significant progress in gold mining in recent years. While there was no production at all 23 years ago, today there are 20 gold mines in operation. These mines produced approximately 35 tons of gold in 2023 (Gold Miners Association, 2024). However, it is not possible for this production to completely satisfy Türkiye’s gold hunger; large amounts of imports are still required. Last year, net imports were around 430 tons, which corresponds to almost 12 percent of global gold production. The money paid for this import was around 26 billion dollars (TurkStat, 2024); almost 60 percent of the country’s current account deficit of approximately 45 billion dollars in 2023 (Strategy and Budget Department of Presidency, 2023) was due to net gold imports.

Due to high increases in prices, there is currently intense gold exploration activity being carried out all over the world, and investments in production are being increased. In Türkiye, there are also more than 10 gold production projects in the investment or feasibility stage. Therefore, we can easily predict that, far from giving up gold mining, Türkiye will gradually increase its production in the coming years.

However, the arguments of those who suggest that Türkiye give up gold production should not be ignored. Indeed, this country has frequently been on the world’s agenda in recent years with unacceptable mining disasters. Considering that mining industry accident statistics are improving in many countries, including China, Türkiye’s position is particularly noteworthy. Ultimately, the people of this country should not forget that while they fully enjoy the benefits of mining, they also have a responsibility to oppose the negative effects of this sector on humans and nature to the same extent. However, the primary duty here, of course, falls to the Turkish state, and it will not be possible to avoid similar tragedies unless it fulfills its control function properly.


  • Federal Ministry of Finance of Austria, 2023, World Mining Data 2023, Vienna.
  • Gold Miners Association of Türkiye, 2024, Gold Mines in Türkiye,
  • Strategy and Budget Department of Presidency, 2023, Foreign Trade and Balance of Payments,
  • TurkStat, 2024, Foreign Trade Statistics: TurkStat Statistics Data Portal,
  • World Gold Council, 2024a, Gold Demand Trends Full Year 2023,
  • World Gold Council, 2024b, Gold Reserves by Country,
  • World History Encyclopedia, 2024, Croesus,