Special for the Armenian Weekly
For rural mining communities in Armenia, knowledge is power, and with the support of ONEArmenia, the American University of Armenia’s Center for Responsible Mining (AUA CRM) is hoping to bring invaluable knowledge to local communities. The two organizations have teamed up to raise funds that will allow AUA to purchase laboratory equipment that measures heavy metal contaminants in the environment.
Today there are 400 mines in Armenia, and counting, 22 of which extract heavy metals. Because of poor monitoring and enforcement of regulations, the mines are a targeted source of significant heavy metal contamination.
Toxic metals such as lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium spread into local soil and water. Overexposure to these contaminants are linked to a myriad of health risks, from developmental delays in children, to fertility problems, respiratory, digestive, and nervous system issues.
The equipment to be purchased will measure heavy metal toxins in soil, air, water, and blood. One instrument has a detection sensitivity of parts per billion, which is the range specified by the World Health Organization and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Data collected by the new equipment will help mining communities determine their current level of exposure and the best methods to mitigate future exposure to toxic metals. In addition, the toxicity data can be used by communities and organizations to leverage compensation for cleanup and environmental remediation, holding mining companies accountable for the pollution.
“People have a right to live in a clean environment and be healthy, to know what air they breathe and what soil they till,” says Alen Amirkhanian, director of the AUA Acopian Center for the Environment and AUA CRM.
Besides the environmental pollution and exposure analyses, the Center for Responsible Mining also plans to conduct educational trainings with mining community members, helping them to better understand their risks and find solutions.
Prior to the launch of AUA CRM back in March, Armenia was lacking an independent body able to provide knowledge on responsible mining with a consideration for all involved. “AUA CRM looks to engage all key stakeholders, including industry, members of communities near mining sites, environmentalists, government, and financial institutions,” says Amirkhanian.
ONEArmenia is excited to be partnering with AUA in their latest campaign. Nora Kayserian, head of operations at ONEArmenia, says, “This campaign fit perfectly with ONEArmenia’s focus since it uses technology to have a positive impact on the country.”
The crowdfunding campaign facilitated by ONEArmenia is seeking to raise $29,000 for the initial phase of the project. All donations will be matched, providing the remaining funding needed to purchase all laboratory equipment. The campaign runs now until Nov. 14. To contribute, visit www.igg.me/at/responsiblemining.