The following is an open letter by the Save Teghut Civic Initiative, a coalition of groups and individuals concerned about Armenia’s environment, urging Armenians worldwide to refrain from supporting the Amoulsar mining project, which aims to extract gold from Mount Amoulsar in the Vayots Dzor province. The activists have raised concerns about the environmental, health, and economic ramifications of this project. They are appealing to the Diaspora community to divest or refrain from investing in Lydian International and its subsidiary Geoteam CSJC, who are engaged in this mining project and are reportedly reaching out to potential diasporan investors.
Below are excerpts from the letter:
Amoulsar is one of the peaks of the Armenian highlands, a mountain 3,000 meters above sea level, located between the Vayots Dzor and Syunik regions of Armenia, and only 10 km away from one of the gems of Armenia, the hydrological wonder of Jermuk.
When gold exploration started at Amoulsar in 2006, the Armenian public could not imagine what kind of risks the mining project could possibly pose to the regions of Vayots Dzor, Syunik, and Gegharkunik, as well as Armenia on the whole. These risks have already been identified and have been continuously voiced by civil society and local communities for over three years. Since 2011, three scientific conferences, five official public hearings, as well as many press conferences have been organized on the mining of Amoulsar, during which many geologists, hydrologists, economists, botanists, zoologists, doctors and other specialists expressed their disapproval and fear of uncontrollable risks. Many articles and publications were written, despite the narrow space in the Armenian media given to this issue. While media coverage of these events was limited, the PR strategies of Lydian International and its subsidiary in Armenia, Geoteam CSJC, succeeded in silencing criticism of the mining project in the mainstream media in Armenia.
Despite the claims of Lydian’s executives that they are going to engage in “responsible mining,” their statements cannot be grounded by any evidence of past performance as this is a new company with no track record of mining operation. “Responsible mining” is also incongruent with this particular project, as open-pit mining with such high risks for the environment, economy and livelihood of local communities can in no way be considered “responsible.”
We are aware that the company is conducting intensive PR in the Armenian Diaspora, convincing Armenians around the world to buy shares of their company and finance this disastrous mining project.
Armenians all around the world can only serve their homeland by calling for a moratorium of any new mining project in Armenia, including the ones in Amoulsar, Teghut, Meghri, Hrazdan and other areas, and adoption of strict environmental and taxation regulations to contain the harm threatening our homeland and future generations.
Armenians all around the world should exert efforts in pushing for Amoulsar to be included in the Jermuk National Park, a protected area that will be created soon, but overpasses the mountain for obvious reasons.
While the international quest for the natural resources of Armenia continues and is tilted towards Russia, we in Armenia need support to withstand all sorts of international pressure and extractive slavery. Two large international financial institutions—the International Financial Corporation of the WB Group and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development—are discussing financing this project alongside holding some of the shares of Lydian International. These institutions have already received two complaints from Armenia, one from nine organizations and another one from 200 members of the Gndevaz [a village in the Vayots Dzor province] community, with a request to revoke financial support for this project, as it does not meet international standards promulgated by their own institutions.
…We call upon Armenians and non-Armenians around the world to use common sense and demonstrate a strong sense of responsibility towards the population living in Armenia and reject supporting mining operations in Armenia, particularly gold mining of Amoulsar.
Save Teghut Civic Initiative*
Inga Zarafyan, President of EcoLur NGO
Vazgen Galstyan, President of Jermuk Development Center NGO
Tehmine Yenoqyan, journalist, resident of Gndevaz community
Levon Galstyan, member of Pan-Armenian Environmental Front civic initiative
For the full text of the letter, click here.