- A Corporation Versus the Homeland
- The Open Letter from Environmentalists to the Diaspora investors
- Latest incidents
- What happened in Google Earth and Google Maps?
- Author’s Open Letter to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan
Houry Ellezian, Montreal, 7 July 2020
A Corporation Versus the Homeland
To review and understand what is involved in Amulsar, one must watch the documentary “Amulsar. State of Indifference”.
Lydian International Ltd. discovered gold in Amulsar, Armenia, back in 2006. With its Armenian counterpart, it began luring villagers of Gndevaz and surrounding villages, with promising jobs and enterprises, at times exploiting their naivety and desperateness. Bought their lands at low prices, via their corrupt mayor, against whom, a court case is currently in progress.
Lydian acquired its mining license from the previous corrupt government. Following land acquisition, it proceeded to destroy all the villagers’ lifework of apricot orchards, to build its own mine facilities. Some villagers even had to sell their cattle because these lands had become useless for grazing.
The company presented a simplified foolproof picture of “clean mining” to the authorities, in a short-animated film, and started construction work, without the consent of the local communities: Gndevaz, Saravan, Saralanj, Kechout and Gorayq communities… and most importantly without even consulting Jermuk community, the most crucially impacted town. This created a terrible alarm among the residents of Jermuk, who were quick to collect over three thousand signatures to confirm their rejection of any mine in their neighborhood.
And despite all the contrary scientific evidence:
- The site’s critical location at the heart of Armenia.
- Proximity to critical drainage systems, connected to important reservoirs and rivers, which directly connect to Lake Sevan. As well-known, Arpa river is connected to Lake Sevan by a tunnel, and which was being renovated and scheduled to re-open in late March of this year.
- Proximity to the famous spa town of Jermuk, well-known for its geysers / hot water springs, connected to the hot subterranean volcanic structures. It is worth noting that there is a special building code for this area, to avoid explosions.
- Existence of uranium, proven in the fifties and harmful to human health if exposed.
- Very strong winds, characteristic of the area, that can transport the dust produced to vast distances.
- Snow during winter stays a long time in this area, which is a slow and sure way of infiltration and recharging ground water. Meaning any contaminant can easily infiltrate into the ground water through melting snow.
- Cyanide, a dangerous chemical was planned to be transported uphill along a “rugged mountainous region” leading to the site.
Thus, when the construction phase began, many tragic incidents were reported:
- Loud and noisy explosions were heard and visible from spa town of Jermuk,
- Blackish turbid water started running from tap water inside houses,
- Snow color turned into pinkish,
- Heavy dust settled on people’s cars just after one rainfall,
- Arpa – Vorotan rivers were rapidly polluted,
- Small baby fish were killed in fisheries.
After such incidents, the residents of Gendevaz and Jermuk confirmed that this project was a disaster in progress, even at its launching phase. Though some people were initially not complaining, turned absolutely against it after these incidents occurred.
Concerned voices which were raised long ago by the environmentalists, during the previous government, unfortunately continued with the new administration. They had great hopes that after the revolution, all corrupt schemes, including Amulsar project would be halted. But surprisingly, the new government took a different stand! No drop of water will be affected, the Prime Minister said. In disbelief, the residents thereupon resorted to blocking all the roads leading to the mine site.
Meanwhile, many independent studies were conducted through private means, numerous pleas, expert opinions, including my open letter to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, all pointing to the defects and faults in Lydian’s claims. Nevertheless, the new government preferred to conduct its own investigation, commissioning Lebanese ELARD, for an assessment, which also lead to similar conclusions. But the investigative committee appointed by the government for this reason, was dubiously coordinating with Lydian, and cleverly added a last page to the report prepared by ELARD, to misinform the Prime Minister that the report was in fact positive. Soon after, corruption charges were also laid on the head of this investigative committee.
It was apparent that the mining company and its shareholders were a stronger clan than the state. Lydian continued its arrogant and aggressive tactics. It even sued the environmentalists for defamation, spreading false narratives about them, misleading the new government, that the environmentalists were standing in the way of development. Always maintaining that the blockage was illegal, peeping into the protesters’ private information, publishing propaganda articles in various Armenian and non-Armenian journals, and even threatening the republic of Armenia with international arbitration court.
As events came to demonstrate, the new government was under tremendous pressure by ambassadors of the UK and USA , who were either being influenced by Lydian story, or had a direct interest in Amulsar! An impression was created that if you are against mining in Amulsar, you are against big foreign investments in the country. Thus, no human rights were recognized from human rights defenders themselves.
Sadly, encouraging mining, increasing its production, and giving out new licenses, also became a priority of this government. A recent plea to suspend issuing of new mining licenses for the next two years, was refused by a committee of parliament.
Standing firm and blocking the roads, defending the land, the habitat, against aggression and against the destruction of Mount Amulsar, remains the only option for now, until this government takes a firm decision, to stop mining in Amulsar and elsewhere in the country. You cannot open a mine, start destroying nature, harming your own citizens, letting them migrate, and then decide that it is harmful and put it back again. It is just not possible.
As a result of more than a year’s blockage, Lydian began losing its share value in Toronto Stock Exchange and was eventually delisted from the market. See also Ontario Superior Court informed about misleading information in mining company Lydian’s affidavit.
And the struggle continues …
The Open Letter from Environmentalists to the Diaspora investors
On April 8, 2020 Armenian environmentalists, Armecofront, issued an open letter to large investors of the diaspora:
In this letter, diaspora’s investors were alerted about a dangerous process of buying Lydian shares by big Armenian investors. This, after the company was delisted from Toronto Stock Exchange. In the mentioned open letter, certain personalities were revealed, some of whom, in the name of benevolence, were in fact doing great harm.
In the early morning hours of June 30th, 2020, a private security company claiming to have replaced the previous one, rushed to Amulsar posts with their cars and guns. While doing so they also overran and killed 3 puppies, creating heartache, chaos and large gatherings during a pandemic. The story was that they were sent to protect Lydian properties. But they had not previously notified the Amulsar guardians, making it look more like an invasion. Later, government security forces came to control the situation. There was finally an agreement between the two parties that legal documents would be handed over to the lawyers, the security men/cars representing Lydian, would be identified and reduced to a minimum, without carrying arms and showing off. You may also read:
- Ամուլսարում զինված պահնորդային ուժեր են կուտակվել
- Tense Situation near Amulsar Guard Post
- Ամուլսարի հարցը մեզ համար արցախյան հարց է, որի լուծումը ժողովուրդը տվել է, հետքայլ չկա․ Շիրակ Բունիաթյան
- Ամուլսարում համաձայնության են եկել. այդ շոուները տարածքում պետք է չլինեն՝ զենքով, դիմակով, զորքով ծառայություն չեն իրականացնելու. Շիրակ Բունիաթյան
What happened in Google Earth and Google Maps?
I was searching for Amulsar in both Google Maps and Google Earth, and this is what I found: the word “Gora Kysyr” instead of “Amulsar”. And a bunch of other Turkish names all over Armenia … I wrote a feedback to Google Earth, but one person is not enough.
It was only natural to expect Azerbaijan’s encouragement to exploit Amulsar: Ադրբեջանը ողջունում է Ամուլսարի շահագործումը
But they went a step further and revealed their true intentions to annihilate the rest of Armenia. Let this be a notification, a registered proof, to the appropriate world organizations and negotiators that Armenia now is under cyber-attack. Just go to Google Earth and Google Maps and check for yourselves … and what will Google do about it?
Houry Ellezian is a geologist/sedimentologist with work experience in seismology. She is an environmental activist. The collage appearing on top of the article is the author’s work.