Economy 16:30 04/03/2023 Armenia

Lawyer slams Amulsar mine restart plan, says environmental risks are ignored

Armenia’s Ministry of Economy, the Eurasian Development Bank and Lydian Armenia,  a subsidiary of the U.S.-British Lydian International, on February 22 signed a memorandum for $250 million to complete construction work at the Amulsar gold mine near the spa town of Jermuk and purchase the necessary equipment.

The Armenian budget revenues from the development of the Amulsar deposit are expected to be around 40 billion drams a year, Armenian officials claim. In addition, it will open hundreds of new jobs.

Meanwhile, environmental activists claim that its potential environmental risks, including water pollution fears due to acid mine drainage, have been neglected. has spoken with lawyer Nazeli Vardanyan, chair of the Forests of Armenia NGO, about the environmental risks of the project and the government’s claims. Has any new environmental impact assessment been conducted to allow mining at Amulsar? What efforts have been made to mitigate the risks?

Nazeli Vardanyan: There is no official government decision on the mine operation. There is a document which is not legally binding, i.e. no agreement has been signed yet. It’s a memorandum with no legal force. The contract is yet to be signed.

It is a disgraceful memorandum. I hope it will undergo changes, because taking such a responsibility and burdening the people with all its consequences is either ignorance, to put it mildly, or part of a plan to bring the country into a difficult situation with no chances to get out of it.

The risks have not been assessed whatsoever. Absolutely no economic, social, health and environmental damages have been assessed.

The law on environmental impact assessment envisages elaboration of a methodology, but from 2014 and to date there has been no such methodology in place, not even economic damage has been assessed. They claim that many new jobs will be created, but how many jobs will be closed instead?

It seemed to me that they at least counted the benefits but after signing this memorandum, I realized that they have absolutely no idea of them. I don't know what their decisions are based on.

They [the ruling team] screwed up Armenia’s legislation immediately after coming to power, when they gave permissions. All the environmental laws and conventions were violated by these permits. The opinion of Jermuk residents was not taken into consideration at all in a blatant violation of the law. Amid lack of Jermuk residents’ opinion as an affected community, all the permits should be invalidated.

The enemy troops are stationed near the region. In September 2022, we saw that the entire area around Amulsar came under Azeri shelling. Who can guarantee that it will not happen again this time on a platform full of cyanide? This would be the end of Armenia, since 80% of its water resources would be polluted and those areas would become uninhabitable.

They say it's a 10-year project, but in just 2-3 years, they will extract only some materials and leave, as it was the case in the Teghut mine. The latter was declared bankrupt in 4 years. They will go bankrupt either, won’t carry out any reconstruction works and will go away, leaving the burden on our shoulders, and Jermuk will be occupied by Azeris. That's what this program is all about. Mrs. Vardanyan, no environmental impact assessment has apparently been conducted, is it?

Nazeli Vardanyan: A new environmental impact assessment was a mandate as the experts hired by the government stated the data provided by the study was insufficient and it was impossible to assess all the risks, but there has been much talk about the numerous unmanageable risks. What are the major risks?

Nazeli Vardanyan: All the imminent threats are big... Security challenges have now emerged given the proximity of the enemy troops. There is also an ecological risk, because acid mine drainage cannot be managed anyway. The whole region is currently in an unstable seismic situation. We are part of the same seismic zone. Who can guarantee that there won't be destruction and earthquakes here? All these are unmanageable risks. Back in 2016, Doctor of Geology, Professor Armen Saghatelyan said: "...This is a sulfide deposit, thus acid drainage risks are highly unlikely. The rocks at Amulsar mine are very cracked, so the surface water will flow deep down through them, dissolving sulfides on their way and resulting in sulfuric acid. This acidic water will flow into the Vorotan and Arpa Rivers, as well as the Spandaryan and Kechut Reservoirs." How Amulsar mine operation has now became possible?

Nazeli Vardanyan: This man even gave an interview on the matter before his death in the hospital as he was deeply concerned about it. Unfortunately, he is no longer with us to fight. Four experts from Australia, Canada and America, even ELARD experts and other Armenian experts warned about it. All experts unanimously said that the mine exploitation was unacceptable. Acid drainage is uncontrollable, because it is impossible to put a gate valve or a cleaner on every crack. No matter how hard they try, the acid will get through them. The geological structure of Amulsar is volcanic, there are tectonic faults there, which the company kept secret and did not assess that it would penetrate through the faults and cracks.

And what is sulfide? It is sulfur, which reacts with oxygen and water to form sulphuric acid where most metals are dissolved. There is uranium and other heavy metals here, which all will dissolve and gradually flow into rivers. Whereas, they haven’t assessed it and have not revealed where the mining wastewater will go. They say there is no tailing pond, but there is a platform instead. It’s an open area, where cyanide solution will be stored, which will evaporate and may cause various problems. Over two dozen NGOs and individuals recently released a statement on the Amulsar mine development. You also joined this statement. Apart from statements, what steps should be taken to prevent Amoulsar mine operation?

Nazeli Vardanyan: Steps are being taken and we should not necessarily take to the streets, holding posters, though it’s also likely. We have adopted new struggle tactics and are working on it day and night, so the results will be visible soon. I am sure the mine will not restart, it cannot operate illegally against the opinion and will of the local residents. Thank you for the interview.

Share |

Related news

Տեքստում սխալ կամ վրիպակ նկատելու դեպքում, ուղարկեք խմբագրին հաղորդագրություն` նշելով տվյալ սխալը, այնուհետև սեղմելով Ctrl-Enter:


Foreign Ministry releases details of Mirzoyan-Lavrov meeting
The Armenian Foreign Ministry has released some details of a meeting between Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and his Russian...
2023 is hottest year in human history, UN chief says
This year will be the hottest year in human history, the head of the United Nations has said, at the start of the COP28 climate summit, the...
Holy Lance to be brought out on December 2
The Armenian Apostolic Church will celebrate the Feast of the Apostles St. Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew on December 2 this year. Back...
Over 55 Armenians being held by Baku, lawyer says
55 Armenians are being held by Azerbaijan, international law expert Siranush Sahakyan said at a press conference on Thursday, citing official...
Armenian, Russian FMs meet in Skopje
Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan met with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Skopje on Thursday. The talks were held on the...
Pashinyan's second-class 'brothers and sisters'
Nikol Pashinyan was quick to figure out how to address forcibly displaced people of Artsakh. He doesn’t call them “Artsakh...
EU, Armenia look into strengthening and deepening their partnership
The EU Delegation to Armenia issued a statement following the recent visit of a delegation of the European External Action Service and the...
Pashinyan installs new Language Committee chief
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has appointed Siranush Dvoyan as new chairwoman of the Language Committee. The relevant decree is...
Informal CIS summit to be held on Dec. 26
An informal meeting of the CIS presidents will take place on 26 December, CIS Secretary General Sergei Lebedev told the media on Thursday 30...
Mirzoyan, Cameron discuss Armenia-UK relations
Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan met with UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron on the sidelines of the OSCE 30th Ministerial Council in...
Artsakh Monument Watch debunks Azeri propaganda narrative
The Artsakh Monument Watch has debunked false Azerbaijani propaganda narrative alleging restrictions on Azerbaijani researchers in...
Armenian, Azeri deputy PMs to meet at border on Thursday
Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Shahin Mustafayev will meet at the state border between the...
Henry Kissinger, U.S. diplomat and Nobel winner, dies at 100
Henry Kissinger, a diplomatic powerhouse whose roles as a national security adviser and secretary of state under two presidents left an...
Three Armenian chess players qualify for World Rapid and Blitz Championships
The qualification tournaments for the FIDE World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships have come to an end. In the sum of two tournaments, GM...
Stepantsminda-Larsi road open to all vehicles
The Rescue Service has warned drivers of a closed road in Armenia as of Thursday morning. In particular, the road linking the Amberd high...
Mirzoyan, Blinken discuss regional security
Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan on Wednesday had a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The meeting was held...
Russia urges Israel to protect rights of all religious communities in country
Russia calls on the Israeli authorities to make sure that Christians and all other religious communities are equally protected under the law,...
Temperatures to soar in Armenia
No precipitation is expected in Armenia in the next few days. West winds will be 2-5 meters per second. Temperatures are set to rise by...
1.3 million people living in Gaza shelters, WHO chief says
More people in Gaza could ultimately be killed by disease outbreaks than bombings, the World Health Organization has warned. WHO chief...
Ex-official says Pashinyan rejected proposal to set up special department for Artsakh people
Samvel Babayan, a former secretary of the Artsakh Security Council, says he was the first to be summoned for questioning by the Investigation...
Artsakh MP deplores Armenian president's statement
Davit Galstyan, head of the Justice faction in the Artsakh parliament, has criticized the latest statement of Armenian President Vahagn...
Armenian envoy: UN has yet to meet its obligations vis-à-vis Nagorno-Karabakh people
The United Nations and its respective bodies and structures have yet to meet their obligations vis-à-vis the people of Nagorno-Karabakh,...
Video shows Tigran Avinyan singing
A video circulating on social media shows Yerevan Mayor Tigran Avinyan singing out load "O Sole Mio," a famous Neapolitan song, at an...
Putin has no plans yet for talks with Pashinyan, Kremlin says
Russian President Vladimir Putin has no plans yet to communicate over phone with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who is expected to...
Expert says Russia's ban on Armenian goods has 'political motives'
Russia has blocked the entry of Armenian trucks for “violating sanitary measures”. Hundreds of Armenian trucks have been stuck at...
Azerbaijan summons French, German and U.S. envoys
Azerbaijan on Tuesday summoned French, German and United States representatives to protest at their "illegal funding" of local media,...
Opposition MP slams Armenian leaders for Artsakh remarks
Opposition Hayastan bloc MP Ishkhan Saghatelyan has lambasted the Armenian authorities for their statements on Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh)....
Artsakh issue remains unresolved, claims ex-security chief
The Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) issue has not been resolved, Samvel Babayan, former secretary of the Artsakh Security Council and army commander,...
Azeri paper attacks Sassounian for saying Azerbaijan wastes billions on lobbying
By Harut Sassounian Publisher, The California Courier Last week, I was asked by Alpha News TV to comment on the U.S. Senate’s...
Stepantsminda-Larsi road closed to trucks
The Rescue Service has warned drivers of a closed road in Armenia as of Wednesday morning. In particular, the road linking the Amberd high...

Follow us and get updates!

Most popular articles

{"core.blocks.header.spell_message1":"Selected mistake: ","core.blocks.header.spell_message2":"Send a message about the mistake?"}