Society 19:43 15/02/2020 Armenia

Vayk Gold files lawsuit against Vayk-Invest

Author Nune Avetisyan

A regular public hearing was held in Azatek community of Armenia’s Vayots Dzor Province on possible exploitation of Azatek gold-polymetallic mine on Friday, February 14. The hearing was initiated by Vayk-Invest LLC.

"The discussion took place in haste, with around 100 residents from the village of Azatek in attendance," Ruzan Ghazaryan, President of Vayk's Work and Motherland NGO, told in an interview.

The village has a population of 450-500, which makes it one of the largest villages in the enlarged Vayk community. Ghazaryan, who also attended the public hearing, said she noticed guidance during the hearing.

“There were people under the influence of the community head who voiced support for the exploitation. There was even an old man who had been holding a pen in his hand for a long time, but when he saw the village head looking closely at him, he voted in favor [of the exploitation], he blushed a bit,” she said.

The previous discussions, which were then hosted by Vayk Gold LLC, took place in Vayk town. Some residents of the town had struggled and twice failed the public hearings on the matter. The company had also organized a secret discussion in Azatek, with some residents not opposing the mine exploitation at that time as well. However, after the hearing in Vayk failed, the company's powers were suspended. Instead a new company, Vayk-Invest LLC, emerged. The company also held a public hearing in Zaritap community, but was rejected by the public. But in Azatek, the public hearing was held after a vote of 44 to 42. According to Ruzan Ghazaryan, the company is not interested in how many people had voted for or against the debates, but the fact that a public hearing took place.

However, the whole public hearing was marked by one interesting incident. Vayk Gold's representative also attended the discussion. The attendees thought that those behind the new company were the same people, simply the company’s name had changed.

“At the beginning we thought, in fact, the companies are the same, they have only changed their name and present themselves with a new name. But it turned out to be a completely different situation. During the discussion, a representative of Vayk Gold asked Vayk Invest whether he had worked with them.

The answer was positive. Then Vayk Gold’s representative said that, ‘You have worked with us, stolen our documents and transferred the secrets of our business to Vayk-Invest, now you have come here to represent yourself as a director.’ He also said that the case was not complete and that they had filed a lawsuit in the court. Besides, he said the hearings were totally illegal,” Ghazaryan said.

According to an NGO representative, representatives of the two businesses started arguing. In any case, two more public hearings are still pending and whether the legal process will be a turning point for the new company or not will become clear during the further developments.

As for the Azatek residents who voted in favor of public hearings, they were interested only in job openings and some social promises made by the company, Ghazaryan said. However, there are a number of factors that neutralize the potential for mine development in the area.

Ruzan Ghazaryan first shared her concerns that the mine has a significant supply of uranium in addition to precious metals. "During the Soviet era, uranium was probably the reason that the mine was not exploited," she said.

In addition, Azatek fossil flora is listed among natural monuments. That is, the site itself is of great value. There are also more than ten plant species included in the Red Book of Plants.

According to the Vayk resident, Arpa River flows directly beneath the mine. It is not ruled out that the wastewater will be dumped into the river. Meanwhile, agricultural lands of a whole province are located in the valley of Arpa River. This means that it may cause major problems for agricultural workers, whereas Vayots Dzor is famous for its agriculture and winemaking.

A villager’s job is the land and the land must be preserved for a village to continue surviving.

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