The Environmental Cost of Coal

Assessing coal’s impacts to the environment in Muğla requires a holistic approach to the impacts of coal mines and coal-fired power plants.

Coal mines in Yatağan and Muğla spread over wide areas and cause extensive land degradation, ecosystem damage, water pollution and air pollution. As for air pollution from Yatağan, Yeniköy and Kemerköy coal-fired power plants located in the same region harms plants, forests, wetlands, bees and other animals. Furthermore, when waste water and ash from coal-fired power plants are not disposed safely and pollute the environment, they cause widespread and high levels of environmental damage.

According to the results of the air pollution dispersion model analysis for The Real Costs of Coal:

Mercury emissions of the Yatağan, Yeniköy and Kemerköy coal-fired power plants exceed 1 ton per year. 20% of these emissions is deposited in the waters of the Mediterranean and accumulates in fish tissue, entering the food chain.


Each year, 50 kg of acid (SO2 equivalent) is deposited on forest and agricultural areas in the 90 km2 surrounding the coal-fired power plants. Local residents have been expressing that acid pollution damages the forests in the region, and burns the flowers of olive trees, leading a decline in olive yield. These observations are confirmed by academic studies.

According to The Real Costs of Coal’s contributing report “The Impacts of the Three Coal Power Plants and Open-pit Lignite Mining Operations to Forest Ecosystems in the Province of Muğla” by Association for the Research of Rural Environment and Forestry Issues:

  • With the 13 mine operating licenses awarded to the private sector in 2014, 21,000 hectares are allocated to lignite mines in Yatağan and 23,000 hectares in Milas;


  • Forest areas account for 47.4% of operating license areas. The regional forest ecosystem includes the dominant Turkish pine, as well as 55 mostly woody plant species (trees and shrubs). These forests have many nature-related and social functions such as nature conservation, gene conservation, seed and wood production, maintaining the hydrological cycle and ecotourism;


  • Since 1979, open-pit lignite mining activities spread over a total area of approximately 5,000 hectares (equivalent to 7,800 soccer fields). Quantitative data regarding forest and agricultural areas that were destroyed in this context is not accessible;


  • If all the licensed areas become operational in the course of the next 30 years, an additional 11,200 hectares of forest area in Milas and 7,250 hectares in Yatağan will be wiped out, amounting to the destruction of a total area equivalent to 30,000 soccer fields. If lignite is extracted from the entire licensed area, it will impact the ecosystem integrity of an area larger than the one in question; animals, plants and other living species, which live in these physically damaged habitats that are exposed to mining-related pollution and where the groundwater regime is disturbed, will be adversely affected and biodiversity will decline;


  • Forest ecosystems are impacted also by the environmental pollution caused by the coal-fired power plants in the region. For example, the ash dams, which store the solid and liquid hazardous wastes from all three power plants occupy a total forest area of 300 hectares (equivalent to 470 soccer fields). These ash dams are not equipped with any infrastructure that can prevent the hazardous waste from contaminating neither ground and surface waters, nor soil and air.

© 2018 Climate Action Network Europe