VAYOTS DZOR – Several activists were arrested on August 4, in a tense standoff near the Amulsar mountain for blocking the road in protest against Lydian International’s controversial gold mining project, amid fears that the foreign owned entity has resumed operations in spite of heavy opposition by the general public.
The company’s new management group elevated their security in recent days against peaceful protesters resulting in several arrests. According to the Armenian Environmental Front, Lydian’s Turkish investors are highly interested in the exploitation of the Amulsar Gold Mine.
It was reported in days leading up to the arrests, that Lydian tore down resistance posts with large cranes at nighttime without any notification, replacing them with Lydian posts and claiming that the land belongs to the corporation. The Mayor of Jermuk, in a signed letter, stated that the land does not belong to Lydian and is in fact public property. In a February-March 2020 poll conducted by CRCC Armenia, 53% of Armenia’s citizens stated that they were against the mining, and 19% were in favor.
For two years, environmental activists and locals, who fear that the project will destroy the pristine natural habitat of the region, including the nearby Jermuk natural spring and Vorotan river, have staged sit-ins at the project site, in an effort to prevent Lydian from resuming with dangerous mining activities, including the use of cyanide to extract gold – a highly controversial practice which poses long-lasting catastrophic impacts on the environment and its inhabitants.
The mine sits just above a tunnel which supplies water to Lake Sevan and scientists believe that acidic damage would eventually make its way into the lake and threaten the landlocked nation’s water system.
The Amulsar Gold Mine project came under intense scrutiny after Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, in August of 2019, gave Lydian the green light to resume mining. Following his approval, large scale protests led to the government questioning Lydian’s motives, requesting an environmental impact report and hiring an independent consulting firm to review the report to determine whether the project would hinder the region’s ecosystem.
After the independent firm concluded that Lydian’s report was incomplete, and no assessment could be made regarding mining Amulsar for gold deposits, the issue remained silent and the project was presumed to have come to a halt. Yet, Lydian and its investors exerted pressure and made threats of legal action against the Armenian government for the initial approval of the project by former President Serzh Sargsyan’s administration back in 2012 when the initial drilling took place.
Furthermore, reports came to light that the European Union Delegation to Armenia, on the behest of the US and UK governments, urged Prime Minister Pashinyan to allow Lydian to resume operations.
In a September 2019 interview with MassisPost, Arman Suleymanyan, writer and director of the documentary Amuslar: A State of Indifference, talked about the controversial project in depth.