Amulsar Mine: It is absolutely unacceptable to endanger Lake Sevan for any gold in the world

  • Country - 25 November 2016, 16:53
Amulsar gold mining project continues to be criticized. Environmental activists, geologists and independent experts warn that Lake Sevan and spring waters of Armenia are endangered, whereas the mine exploiting company, Lydian Armenia, claims that all the concerns are addressed in their project and the risks are minimized. CivilNet made a video on this issue. Geologist, Sc.D Armen Saghatelyan, Pan-Armenian Environmental Front civil initiative's member and geographer Levon Galstyan, senior manager at Lydian Armenia Armen Stepanyan and Minister of Environmental Protection Artsvik Minasyan expressed their opinion in the video.

Geologist Armen Saghatelyan believes that there are a number of manageable and unmanageable risks:

“The rocks are quite cracked. It is a sulphide mine and therefore, all natural and chemical compounds there contain large amounts of sulphur/brimstone. So when before mine explosions the surface is watered artificially or when it rains, all these waters mixed with sulphur will infiltrate into the deeper layers. There is no existing technology for collecting this water; rocks are cracked and therefore it will all go to the deepest layers.

Saghatelyan says that even a tiny failure will be enough for Armenia to lose a strategic ecosystem; the threat is not manageable because we deal with water here:

“It is absolutely unacceptable to endanger Lake Sevan for any gold in the world. We need to state that exploitation of this mine violates the Law on Sevan. The environmental impact assessment was initially done incorrectly; not only the mine exploitation is dangerous but also the further activities with the ore… There have been speculations about law and it is suspicious why the Government of Armenia got involved in such serious speculations”.

Environmental activist Levon Galstyan mentioned that in case of exploitation of the gold mine in Amulsar, the spring waters of Armenia will be contaminated. He says that the government did not carry out a realistic assessment of environmental impacts and that there is no alternative or independent expertise which would confirm that spring waters will not be contaminated with this project:

“The exploitation of Amulsar gold mine will endanger strategic resources of spring water in Armenia. It will affect Arpa and Vorotan rivers, the river basins, Kechut and Spandaryan water reservoirs, Vorotan-Arpa-Sevan tunnel and finally also Lake Sevan (technically the quality of the water will change). On the one side of the scales are the dubious profits from Amulsar gold mine, and on the other side is the safety of our national and ecological water reserves”.

Armen Stepanyan, the senior manager of Lydian Armenia mentioned in his talk to Civilnet that the concerns of environmental activists are already addressed in their project. He says that there is a technology which can fully control the waters:

“It is called Surface water management system. Every water that may get in contact with our infrastructures, whether it is underground water or surface water will be collected and directed to a special basin and will be later used during the mine exploitation process. We solve two issues: less impact on the environment and less water extraction. E.g. if a certain quantity of water would have been taken from a certain water basin, this quantity will be less because we have a well-functioning water management system”.

But Levon Galstyan says. “They can write, bring machines, people, etc but in a 300 hectare area where there is up to 1 meter of snowfall, they won’t be able to regulate the melting process of the snow, it is absolutely impossible, it’s a fantasy. Anyone who claims this or believes in this is actually misleading the uninformed population. It is impossible to control the melting of the snow; anyone can even google search or read in other resources information about what happens in similar mines, what kind of streams, acid drainage and surface streams happen which finally lead to contamination.

…Quoting international standards or using complex terminology doesn't change the essence of the problem. The international financial institutions which have participated in this project, namely, the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, need to understand that they are actually participants of a project which threatens ecological security of Armenia”.

P.S. For security reasons, Lydian Armenia did not allow CivilNet to video record the mining; instead, they provided the footage which was used in this video.