Armenia Poisoned by and for Gold

By Suzanne Simonyan, Yerevan, 15 August 2013

Armenia has become a large mining tract operated by foreign companies. In a number of settlements mining has also become a peril to public health. Newborn babies with various anomalies have become commonplace in these areas.

Kapan presents one such area of environmental depredation. Forests and mountains are being indiscriminately and violently exploited by such companies as Canadian-owned Deno Gold Mine (a subsidiary of Dundee Precious Metals). Meanwhile, the waste dump has become a threat to  nature and to area residents. People working in the mines do so in severe conditions and are paid paltry sums. There is poverty everywhere as foreign companies penetrate deeper into the land.

Canada’s Dundee Precious Metals

By Suzanne Simonyan, Yerevan, 15 August 2013

Armenia has become a large mining tract operated by foreign companies. In a number of settlements mining has also become a peril to public health. Newborn babies with various anomalies have become commonplace in these areas.

Kapan presents one such area of environmental depredation. Forests and mountains are being indiscriminately and violently exploited by such companies as Canadian-owned Deno Gold Mine (a subsidiary of Dundee Precious Metals). Meanwhile, the waste dump has become a threat to  nature and to area residents. People working in the mines do so in severe conditions and are paid paltry sums. There is poverty everywhere as foreign companies penetrate deeper into the land.

Canada’s Dundee Precious Metals

In Syunik, a month ago, I was  stunned by what I saw. Beautiful Syunik and its Syunyats Mountains have been for every Armenian impregnable fortresses since times immemorial. Having witnessed the tragedy unrolling in Syunik, I can state that if no measures are taken Syunik, its beautiful mountains and its forests will soon turn into a mine dump. The land and the nature in Syunik is being raped and robbed. But the most terrible development is the condition of the locals, their poverty and health problems, their despair and fear. On the drive back from Syunik, late at night, I lost count of the trucks. Loaded with thousands of tonnes of minerals, they were taking the wealth of Syunik from Armenia, while the people of Syunik can’t make ends meet. The cargo the trucks carried did not have anything to do with the improvement of the locals’ living conditions; they were just the life insurance of the looters.

Now there is another mountain scheduled for gold mining. The exploiter is Amulsar. A group of environmental activists insist that the operation is risky and can have a negative impact on the tourist town of Jermuk, the top-rated resort of Armenia. As experts see it, the mine will cause a decrease of mineral water flow. A composition of dust will appear after the Amulsar explosions. Jermuk's atmosphere will be critically damaged and the composition of the mineral water changed.

Environmental experts and activists are demanding the exploitation be stopped. To stop the project there must be joint public pressure, as government agencies support the mining companies. There are also concerns that Jermuk will stop being a tourist town as a consequence of mining, especially for foreign tourists who will stay away when they learn there is a mine nearby.

Although there's the potential for ecotourism in the area, the Amulsar operations will harm the local biodiversity, according to environmentalists. The steppe hawk and at least 14 endemic plant species, registered in the International Red Book or the Red Book of Armenia, also face danger because of rampant, unregulated mining.

Everything is being exterminated day by day. Nobody in authority cares for the people or for nature. Where are we going? Why are we destroying our homeland? What are the short- and long-term costs of mining?  What can Diaspora do to support the just claims of the Armenians living in Armenia? How can our brothers in Diaspora/"Spyurk" help stop the rape of their homeland? Isn’t it high time for Diaspora Armenian "greens" and for overseas experts to get involved in solving this mortal crisis?

Armenia is not only for Armenia Armenians but for all Armenians. We all–in Armenia and in the Diaspora–should get involved in the struggle to protect the environmental integrity of our homeland.
———–
Suzanne Simonyan is the deputy coordinator of Nakhakhorhrdaran in Armenia.

 

2 comments
  1. Mining in Armenia

    Those of us who think Armenia will survive as an environmental garden or a wildlife preserve, without mining, or modern roads and electrical grid, or natural gas, or water supply systems, or effluent processing plants, just deceive ourselves. No way but up for Armenia. Armenia has to become modern, in every way.

    Mining cannot be stopped. However, detrimental impact of mining does not have to follow. In the western world, there are environmental protection agencies which regulate mining and mining companies. Before a mine can turn a spade full of dirt, it has to submit a reclamation plan that has to be realistic and effective in bringing the land back to its original state of productivity. These agencies are independent of political influence, cannot be bribed, and are very effective. When the mining operation is done with, the community is left with parks, and meadows where there was previously unproductive land. The days of toxic spills and illegal dumping are over. The fines associated with being caught are so Draconian, that most companies decide it cheaper to build reclamation plants and containment facilities.

    Armenia needs to rid itself of corrupt officials and corruption. Only then can it become the Switzerland of the Caucasus.

  2. Mining in Armenia

    Mining is needed but the wealth should stay in the country. This is not the case with foreign mining companies. They are not interested in preserving a healthy environment for the local people nor to pay fair wages. This should be, however, the task of our politicians. But most of these are corrupt. So the population itself with the help of the Diaspora should take the necessary steps to protect our homeland and the health of the future generations.

    Africa, with its immense wealth, is still starving …………thanks to foreign mining companies.
     

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