Villagers in the southern region of Vayots Dzor are going to organize a protest action against a plan to exploit a gold mine close to their community.
Speaking to Tert.am, the mayor of Gndevaz, Hayrapet Mkrtchyan, said the project aimed at launching the mine of Amulsar has angered the local youth who are concerned about the arable lands’ future. “The village’s youth has initiated this protest action. Our demand is to understand the technologies of exploitation. The major part of our lands goes to the exploiters. So what will become of the villagers if the stay in the village? What are they supposed to do?” he told Tert.am.
The residents of other village communities in the region are not unanimous on the idea. “I cannot say how many of them are four and how many are against. Some want it; others do not. Some of the people are concerned about the village’s future, while others think there will be workplaces for the villagers,” Mkrtchyan noted.
The village mayor added he personally does not support the mine project. “The project has been submitted to us to let us know how and where the mines are going to be exploited and whether they will be open or close,” he added.
The fact that Gndevaz is in a risk zone was confirmed later by Inga Zarafyan, an environmental activist. “Risks in Gndevaz are rather high, as there are plans to build a cyanide factory there,” she said, pointing out to hazards to other villages as well.
She described mine exploitation plan as a big strategic threat to Armenia’s water resources, biodiversity and soil layers.
Levon Galstyan, another environmentalist whom we contacted for comments, also admitted the negative impact of the project. “The mine may affect the Vorotan river’s basin. If it also affects the water reservoir in Kechut, that will have its impact on [lake] Sevan,” he said.
As for the conflict of interest among different villagers, Galstyan noted that most people agree to work in the mine for X sums of money.
The environmentalist said he knows that 15,000 people in Armenia work in mining industries, the number being less than one percent of the country’s population.
“Seven hundred jobs are due open in Amulsar; some 400 [of the workforce] will be probably from the neighboring villages as there are no specialists in those villages at all. We expose an entire country to pollution for just 400 jobs, turning hectares of land lots into unusable land areas. We don’t have those estimates; a mine similar to the one in Amulsar could not be exploited in any normal country,” Galstyan noted.
Vahan Mkrtchyan, a resident of Gndevaz who owns a land lot, said he is ready to sell it to mine exploiters, citing the need of creating jobs to prevent migration. “Yes, I am ready to give them my yard for money,” he told our correspondent.
International Finance Corporation and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development are shareholders of Lydian International Ltd, the main company which owns the 100% package of Geoteam, a CJSC responsible for the Amulsar mine project’s implementation in Armenia.