The former regime of Armenia has left behind a rather heavy “inheritance” that is causing headaches for the Pashinyan-run government. These issues include the corrupt judiciary, the treaty against domestic violence (known as the Istanbul Treaty) and the Amulsar Gold Mine, to name just a few. These matters require time and effort to resolve, without the guarantee of satisfying all segments of society.
Today, the most pressing issue on the agenda is whether or not to allow the reactivation of the Amulsar gold mine’s operations. In 2016, American-British company Lydian Armenia, was granted the right to operate a gold mine in the Amulsar region, near the resort town of Jermuk, the Arpa and Vorotan rivers, and Lake Sevan. After the revolution, environmental organizations began demanding that the operation of the gold mine be terminated. They argue the toxic materials produced by the mine would endanger the above mentioned important water reserves for decades to come. By blocking roads to Amulsar, the environmentalists succeeded in stopping the operation of the mine, and the government did not attempt to secure access to it. The official position was that a final decision will be made, only after carrying out an international study on the environmental impact of the mine towards the nearby water reserves and its surrounding natural habitat.
About $400,000 was allocated to the Lebanese Elrad Company to find out if Lydian has taken the required measures to safeguard the surrounding areas. After months of work, Elrad released a report this week, suggesting that the risks posed by the mine’s operations are minimal and manageable.
Based on this conclusion, Prime Minister Pashinyan is trying to persuade the public that after taking additional safety measures recommended by the study group, Lydian should be permitted to resume its operations. In addition, he promised that the government will closely monitor the gold mine’s activities, and if new facts come to light, then the closure of the mine will become inevitable.
Obviously, the Prime Minister’s explanations did not satisfy everyone. In recent days, there have been street protests and various opinions are being expressed from all sides. Even within the Pashinyan-led “My Step” alliance, there are differences in opinion.
Although the Prime Minister did not weigh in on the other aspects of this issue, on numerous occasions, Lydian Armenia has threatened to take the Armenian government to International Court, seeking compensation in tens of millions of dollars in damages.
Massis has touched upon the question of Amulsar on several occasions. A few months ago, after publishing an op-ed urging that “the Armenian government should not give in to threats by Lydian Armenia”, we received a warning letter from Lydian’s representative asking us to remove the above mentioned op-ed from our online site within 24 hours. Lydian also threatened to take legal action against Massis for allegedly damaging the company’s reputation. Naturally, we rejected Lydian’s demand and instead offered them the opportunity to send their side of the story to appear on MassisPost.
Our opinion regarding mines remains the same. No gold mine can completely be environmentally safe, not presently and especially not in the future when the mine reaches the end of its extraction lifespan. Pashinyan’s government may well be able to oversee the mine’s activities and ensure it is operating safely, but it is questionable to what extent future governments will pursue the same policy.
We understand the complexity of this issue, but it is our belief that the closure of the Amulsar gold mine remains the best option.