Government Ignores Concerns Raised by 14 Organizations about Teghut

Armenian Government Ignores Concerns Raised by 14 Organizations about
Teghut Mine

11:57, December 21, 2012

The Armenia Copper Programme (ACP), a division of the Vallex Group
registered offshore in Liechtenstein, has begun operating a
controversial mining project initiated in 2007 in the northern village
of Teghut, Armenia. Preliminary work on the project began with the
clearing of a portion of the pristine Teghut Forest to create a
massive tailing dump for the toxic waste left after mineral
processing. Currently, the company is aggressively removing a mountain
in order to reach the underground deposits of copper and molybdenum.

The Republic of Armenia has openly made mining a key part of its
economic development strategy for the country, despite widespread
public protest on environmental, economic, and social grounds. There
are more than 400 active mines and 19 tailing dumps in Armenia, a
small country the size of the US state of Maryland. Scientists have
reported major health risks in communities around the mines scattered
throughout Armenia. Human rights and environmental activists have also
protested violations of property rights and the loss of rare and
endangered ecosystems and biodiversity.

According to an expert at a recent conference on the socio-economics
of mining held at American University of Armenia, the value of the
minerals in the Teghut mine are $20 billion, yet only $300 million is
anticipated in taxes and salaries from this project, or a mere 1.5
percent. This is widely understood to be grossly inadequate to cover
the environmental and social costs that a project of this type and
magnitude will generate.

A coalition of 14 prominent organizations including Armenia Tree
Project (ATP) and Armenian Environmental Network (AEN) sent a letter
to President Serzh Sargsyan and Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan on
October 30, requesting an independent Environmental Impact Assessment
(EIA) for the Teghut mining project.

`Cases brought in opposition to the operations in Armenian courts have
been cursorily and improperly dismissed on strictly procedural bases
without proper examination as to the substance of the claims. The
Environmental Impact Assessment and public notice requirements are
fatally flawed. The irreparable damage already done to Teghut, and the
yet greater damage that will be done to the region if mining
continues, demand immediate attention,’ reads the letter, in part.

The joint letter requests the EIA in order to: 1) comply with domestic
and international laws, 2) determine and present an accurate analysis
of the environmental impact of the Teghut mining operations, 3)
address the potential public health impacts of the Teghut mining
operations, 4) take alternative development options to mining into
consideration, and 5) restore public faith and trust in government.
For the full text of the letter, click here

The coalition recently received a response to the letter from Edgar
Pirumyan, Ministry of Nature Protection Chief of Staff, who said that
an EIA was completed within the scope of the law and that the project
was therefore approved. For the full text of the reply, click here

`We are disappointed with the perfunctory response through the
Ministry of Nature Protection whose primary mission is the protection
of Armenia’s environment. While an environmental assessment was
conducted for the Teghut mining project, the organization conducting
it, LMI, is a subsidiary of Vallex, which is the project sponsor. By
international standards, the LMI assessment certainly cannot be
considered an `independent’ environmental assessment,’ notes ATP
Managing Director Tom Garabedian.

`We restate our request that a valid independent environmental impact
assessment be conducted before any further work at the Teghut site is
undertaken. We are heartened by the public scrutiny which the Teghut
project has received and support the efforts of the activists who are
petitioning the Armenian government. In a recent visit to California,
the Prime Minister expressed his commitment to Armenia’s environment.
We hope that there is a willingness of the government to reexamine
Teghut and mining in Armenia as a whole,’ concludes Garabedian.

`The Teghut issue resonates with Armenians near and far because it
weaves together a number of contemporary issues: rule of law;
transparency in decision-making; public health considerations; and
public access to information,’ says Ursula Kazarian, President of AEN.
She continues, `The unrelenting pillaging of precious and limited
natural resources for the short-term financial benefit of a handful of
foreign and Armenian investors is both tragic and appalling. Despite
the government’s lackluster response to our request for an independent
EIA, we are encouraged by the increasing civic engagement we are
seeing on the ground and in the Diaspora around this issue, and we
hope to see that momentum continue.’

The letter was co-signed by Acopian Center for the Environment,
Armenian American Health Professionals Organization, Armenian American
Medical Association, Armenian American Nurses Association, Armenian
American Pharmacists Association, Armenian Bar Association, Armenian
International Dental Association, Armenian Medical International
Committee, Axis of Justice (Serj Tankian), Civic Forum, haikProject,
and World Wide Fund for Nature, Armenia.

Armenian Environmental Network
Armenia Tree Project


A coalition of prominent Armenian organizations has raised
environmental, economic, and social concerns about a large mining
project underway in the northern village of Teghut; this photograph of
mountaintop removal was taken at the site on December 1, 2012 by
Babken DerGrigorian