Of course the old saw actually goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But in the topsy-turvy world that seems to be the Republic of Armenia (RoA), the way I have this article titled—“If it’s broke, don’t fix it”—seems to be the way things are done. How else would you explain this YouTube video:
The situation is this. There’s a mining operation run by Ler-Ex near a watercourse, the Geghee stream. Naturally, there’s a tailings pile (“tailings” is the term for the waste, or the non-metal-bearing earth that is left over from a mining operation). This pile of waste seems to have been accumulated in what used to be the Geghee’s streambed. Wisely, the miners seem to have shunted the stream aside through a pipe to have its water circumvent the often-toxic pile of tailings (though whether this was done legally, with government authorization, is unknown at this point). So far, so good.
The Geghee’s course is such that it and the Voghjee stream join. At this confluence, we’re treated to a disturbing sight: The Voghjee’s waters look normal-colored, perhaps a bit turbid because the turbulent water is churning up silt (see photo 1). In contrast, Geghee’s waters look opaque and are a disgusting-looking milky brown-yellow. How could that be? These streams are draining adjoining canyons.
It turns out there’s been an accident of some sort around the mine. The pipe shunting the Geghee’s water is broken in at least four places that activists were able to document in the video above (see photo 2). Of course, no one seems to be addressing the problem, leaving any observer to wonder if this wasn’t intended to be a cover-up. What’s happening is that part of the Geghee’s water is now finding its way back to its original course, right into the tailings dump (see photo 3)! This water then percolates into that waste. But it also has to escape somewhere, right? Well, guess what, there’s a pipe sticking out the lower end of the tailings pile. Out of that pipe is flowing the now-filthy water that has an awful stench. This pipe appears to be made of steel. “So what, of course it is!” you’re probably thinking. And you’re right. Except…the pipe shunting the stream is some flimsy, light blue-colored plastic construct! No wonder it broke! This is not the thick PVC pipe you may have seen being put in the ground in a new housing development in the U.S.
This is what “mining” seems to look like in the RoA. This kind of rapacious, reckless, “who-cares” approach to what might otherwise be an important component of the economy is unacceptable in any country. It’s an affront to human decency. It will ultimately lead to a severe backlash as people start to feel the adverse impacts on their health, ability to earn a living, and environment.
From the diaspora, we must help tame this monster. The first step is, of course, building awareness of this problem. Then we must support the activists on the streets, the lawyers in the courtrooms, and the legislators in the RoA Parliament who are striving to remedy this self-inflicted wound.
Please follow the news to keep up with developments about, and participate in, a walkathon scheduled for September 22, which aims to raise awareness and funds. It is being organized by Green Armenia, a group of concerned Armenians.