The issues surrounding the future of Amoulsar gold mine continue to be on the Armenian government’s agenda. For the past few months, environmental organizations and their activists succeeded in blocking the roads leading to the mine, thus making it impossible to do any work at the site.
According to environmental advocacy groups and mining experts, the sulfuric acid, heavy metals and hazardous materials that will be exploited during the gold mining activities, may pollute Arpa, Vorotan and Darb rivers, causing damage to the Spandaryan and Kechut reservoirs, Vorotan-Arpa tunnel and Sevan Lake. The effects could last for hundreds of years. Jermuk mineral waters could also be poisoned, which are considered as Armenia’s natural wealth.
Since coming to power, Nikol Pashinyan’s government has been trying to find a solution to this problem, but in reality, it has adopted a tactic of delaying difficult decision, that must be addressed sooner or later. Recently, the government has allocated about $400,000 from the state budget for an independent study and evaluation by an international organization.
Meanwhile, Lydian Armenia company, which has a gold mining licence at the Amulsar site, has taken a tougher stand by threatening to appeal to international courts to demand compensation in millions of dollars from the Armenian state, for damages caused by the forced closure of the mine site.
There are other factors which are influencing the government’s decision making process. Some Western countries, including the United States, are pressuring the Armenian side to fulfill it’s obligations under the agreement with Lydian Armenia, warning that any drastic measures could discourage future investments by international corporations.
The shareholders in Lydian Armenia are a number of wealthy Armenians and international companies which, according to some experts, do not have much experience in exploring gold mines and protecting the surroundings from potential environmental hazards. According to environmental experts, thus far the company has failed in fulfilling some of its commitments for safety measures, under the licence agreements with the previous governments.
Whatever the internal and external pressures are, the Armenian government should not give in to the threats by Lydian Armenia or foreign governments. The protection of the environment and the natural resources of Armenia for the generations to come, should be the sole determining factor in deciding the future of the Amulsar gold mine.