On 26 December 2014, during a press conference summarising the events of the year, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili blamed politicians for making irresponsible and populist statements concerning the Sakdrisi mine and stated: “A hundred and fifty archaeological objects have been destroyed during the implementation of BP’s project in the process of building the pipeline. Unlike the Sakdrisi case, nobody spoke up on this issue then.”FactCheck
took interest in the Prime Minister’s statement and verified its accuracy.
British Petroleum (BP) has been operating in Georgia since 1996, working on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline (BTC) whose length on the territory of Georgia is 249 km.
A BP Georgia report explains in detail about the way in which the territory for the installation of the pipeline was prepared. According to the report, the cultural heritage existing on the entire project territory, including both visually inspecting and assessing the surface and conducting archaeological excavations, has been studied. Representatives of the National Museum of Georgia, together with BP-hired groups conducting a special monitoring, participated in the aforementioned excavations.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Caucasian gas pipeline enter Georgia from Azerbaijan and cross the territory of the country before passing into Turkey. Therefore, different expeditions were held in order to inspect and monitor the installation of the pipes in the different places.FactCheck
contacted Irine Ghambashidze, Expedition Head in the Municipality of Akhaltsikhe, who stated that prior to putting the pipeline in place, BP studied the selected route and the nearby territories in accordance with all international regulations. A full study of the territory was continued afterwards as a part of the process of installation and so no archaeological objects were destroyed.
As the Head of the Public Relations Office of BP stated, prior to planning the route, a specially created group studied all of the necessary data in order to make sure that no archaeological objects were located in the selected places. In certain areas, the pipeline’s route was modified following the discoveries of cultural monuments by monitoring groups.The company does not deny that there were several cases of damaging unexpectedly discovered archaeological monuments during primary excavations in the process of installation. However, in such cases, the expedition halted the work and saved the monuments. The fact that the work crew discovered archaeological monuments and protected them during the process of the installation of the pipeline is proven by various publications and exhibitions held by the National Museum of Georgia. For example, in 2005, an archaeological exhibition was held at the National Museum of Georgia in which archaeological materials discovered during the putting in place of the pipeline were presented. Moreover, the National Museum of Georgia published a bilingual book, entitled Rescue Archaeology in Georgia: Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan South Caucasus Pipelines,
in which the role of BP in preserving the cultural monuments of Georgia is described in detail.
According to the book, BP’s attitude towards archaeological monuments was directly in line with recognised standards and the Law of Georgia on Cultural Heritage. It also mentions that the planned route of the pipeline was modified several times so that it would not damage the historical settlement located in the Tetritskaro Forests. The route was modified after the start of the work because up to 300 new cultural monuments, at that time unknown to the public, were discovered, mostly from the Municipality of Tetritskaro to the Turkish border. The book also explains that the places of the new discoveries were marked with a warning sign, Archaeological Monument, which was an indicator for engineers not to interfere with such places prior to the conclusion of archaeological excavations and the issuing of a respective decision.
The aforementioned book thoroughly reviews the discoveries such as burials from different ages, remains of monasteries, a medieval cellar complex, ceramic dishes, domestic items, jewellery, etc.
We contacted the Office of the Prime Minister in the process of this research as well. The Prime Minister’s Press Service could not specify the source upon which Irakli Gharibashvili stated that BP had destroyed 150 archaeological objects.
In the process of installing the pipelines, both specially created groups by BP and the expedition of the National Museum of Georgia were working with the aim of discovering foreseen archaeological monuments on the territory of the excavations. It turned out that several archaeological monuments were found during the work; however, they have not been destroyed but, instead, preserved by BP. The company and its report, an Expedition Head and the exhibitions, books and various publications by the National Museum of Georgia collectively serve as proof.
BP does not deny the fact that in the process of the primary excavations there were several cases in which an unexpectedly discovered cultural monument was slightly damaged. The company, however, did deviate from the initially planned route because of this and did preserve the new monuments.Therefore, FactCheck concludes that Mr Gharibashvili’s statement: “A hundred and fifty archaeological objects have been destroyed during the implementation of BP’s project… Unlike the Sakdrisi case, nobody spoke up on this issue then,” is a LIE.