Application EcoLur to EBRD
To Mr. Dariusz Prasek, Head of Operational Support in the EBRD's Environment Department and Sustainable Development,
To Mr. Kevin Bortz, EBRD’s Natural Resources Director,
To Mr. Paul Vlanderer, the EBRD for the Netherlands, Mongolia, Macedonia and Armenia office Director,
To Mr. Paul-Henri Forestier, the EBRD for the Caucasus, Moldova and Belarus office Director
To Mr. Valeriu Razlog, Head of EBRD Office in Yerevan
Copy to Nature Protection Ministry of Armenia
From “EcoLur” informational NGO
Dear Representatives of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development,
As it’s known, the EBRD has adopted a social and environmental policy, which should cover all the projects implemented by the bank. At present EBRD is the shareholder of Lydian International Company, which is implementing Amoulsar gold mine opencast development as represented by “Geoteam” company in Armenia. When assessing the compliance of Amoulsar project to EBRD standards, we would like you to take into account that 31.07.2012 the Environmental Expertise of Nature Protection Ministry of Armenia issued a positive opinion to Amoulsar gold mine opencast development. In our opinion, thereby the Ministry violated the environmental legislation of the Republic of Armenia and its ratified international conventions and EBRD played a certain role in this matter. As substantiation we shall bring as follows:
1. Nature Protection Ministry of Armenia neglected the opinion of Scientific-Expert Committee on Lake Sevan Preservation by the National Academy of Sciences of RA. The Committee is competent body, which status is prescribed by RA Law “On Lake Sevan”, Chapter 5, which provides independent opinion in regard with impact on Lake Sevan.
What about Amoulsar project, we will bring the short description of risks from the committee opinion dated on 14.06.2012 no. Е-09/2012 signed by Chairman Vladimir Movsisyan: а) what it refers to waste-disposal site: “...The project lacks grounded computations that take into consideration 10-point seismicity of the region.” B) what it refers to hydrogeological indicators: “various groundwater egresses are observed, which will transfer harmful content of barren rock and wastes into the Vorotan River and Lake Sevan through Vorotan-Arpa-Sevan tunnel...Intensive landslip processes are observed in the territory, which can become more active due to waste accumulation and explosions at the mine and lead to unforeseeable consequences.” C) What it refers to radiation safety: “The project, Radman Associates section says that radon concentration exceeds impact level 400 Bq м-3, nevertheless, the EIA mentions nothing about the measures on increase in radon level.” D) What it refers to pollution of agricultural land areas: “The project says that project affected territory is one of the main territories in the country with pastures and meadows, but it says nothing about their use after mine development and conservation.” E) Damage to earth resources mentioned makes up 44.6 million AMD (about US $ 120,000), but it doesn’t mention about any payment of compensations...”
Committee opinion: “Based on the aforementioned grounds, as well as on Internet materials that an ore processing plant should be constructed in the given territory, to issue a negative opinion to “Amoulsar gold mine development within Vayots Dzor and Syunik Regions”.
Not taking into account the negative opinion of Sevan Expert Committee, thereby the Ministry violated provisions of Chapter 5 of RA Law “On Lake Sevan”, which lays down the status of the committee and Article 10 banning any activities having negative impact on the ecosystem of Lake Sevan.
2. In accordance with Article 26 of RA Code “On Soil” mine development is banned in territories with red-listed species. In the course of the public discussions of Amoulsar project independent experts of WWF-Armenia presented data, as well as Dr. in Biological Sciences, one of the authors of 10-volume “Flora of Armenia”, Chairman of Botanical Society of Armenia, Professor Eleonora Gabrielyan insisted that the territory is inhabited with red-listed species, it’s a key ornithological territory, passage corridor for red-listed species. Independent experts stated that scientific date of their studies will be officially published in fall 2012. Nevertheless, Nature Protection Ministry didn’t take into consideration these assessments, thereby violating the provisions of 26 Article of RA Code “On Soil”, RA Law “On Flora”, RA Law “On Fauna”, the UN Convention on Biodiversity Conservation.
3. The Municipal Council of Jermuk resort town addressed a letter to Nature Protection Ministry. Which lists the risks of Amoulsar project and i5s negative impact on the brand of Jermuk resort, loss of potential tourists, probable change of composition of Jermuk mineral waters as a result of repeating explosions at open mine. The Council presented government decision 1064-N dated on 18.09.2008 as substantiation “On Developing Resort Zone Centered on Jermuk”, which says that the borders of resort zone run 2-3 km far away from the mine. On these bases the Council insists that Jermuk should be included in the project affected zone with all ensuing consequences. Nevertheless, the Nature Protection Ministry refused to include Jermuk in the affected zone taking only the opinion of Geoteam Company into consideration that Jermuk is located in a range of 13-15 km far away from the mine and there won’t be any direct impact of dust and noise on the town. Thereby the provisions of the Aarhus Convention, Chapter 2, are violated on public participation in decision –making on environmentally important matters.
4. On cyanic production: In its positive opinion the Ministry noted: “when selecting area for the construction of ore processing plant to be guided by the requirements of RA Law on Lake Sevan”. This means that it’s banned to construct any plant in the drainage basin of Lake Sevan, which includes Arpa and Vorotan rivers under the law. Then a question is left: for what cyanic project has Geoteam Company received the permit from Nature Protection Ministry on 5 December 2011, as the company writes, if on 31 July 2012 it turns out that even the area for the construction of this object hadn’t been selected and, consequently, there is either no EIA on the cyanic production or the submitted EIA didn’t receive any positive opinion. The Ministry explanations on this and other matters were vague and had contradictory nature, and it can be concluded despite public efforts and many public discussions, the process of undergoing environmental expertise is not transparent and shows that the government represented by Nature Protection Ministry of Armenia violated the provisions of the Aarhus Convention, Chapter 1, “on access to environmental information”, Article 2(3) of RA Law “On Environmental Impact Expert Assessment” on “publicity of decision-making”, Article 6 “on procedure of infоrming about planned activities.”
5. The project doesn’t say anything about the impact on health and well-being of the population, thereby violating RA Law “On Environmental Impact Expert Assessment”, Article 5 (a) “on impact on health and well-being of the population.”
It should be noted that Geoteam Company presented explanations about the aforementioned risks. EcoLur officially enquired the Scientific-Expert Committee on Lake Sevan by NAS RA to make comments on these explanations, but the committee officially replied its negative opinion is not subject to any changes.
We think that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development played a certain role in the inadequate position of Nature Protection Ministry, as by the end of the environmental impact expert assessment, on 09.07.2012 it sent the following message: the EBRD for the Caucasus, Moldova and Belarus office Director Paul-Henri Forestier in his interview with known News.am electronic newspaper, (http://news.am/eng/news/112484.html) said: “we are currently waiting for the Ministry of Nature Protection to approve the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) but we are surprised and somewhat disappointed with the recent announcement that they require another 230 days to make a decision. The Environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA), which is required by the EBRD for financing this project should be finalized in July and should enable us to assess whether this project meets our very high standards. Delaying the start up of this project without proper justifications can send wrong signals to the market with negative implications on the FDI...”
This statement by EBRD Director was made in the period of active debates on Amoulsar, when Nature Protection Minister Aram Harutyunyan gave an assignment to clear up problems, particularly in regard with the impact on Jermuk resort and impact on Lake Sevan, which are strategic priorities for Armenia. In this sense, risks for strategic priorities are incompatible with whether or not it’s suitable for EBRD to finance or not to finance the project in expected terms.
Taking into consideration the aforementioned we propose EBRD experts to take the project risks into consideration laid down in the negative opinion of Scientific-Expert Committee on Lake Sevan Preservation by the National Academy of Sciences of RA and in the letter by Aldermen’s Council in Jermuk and to give substantiated assessment to these risks. We also propose to hold the meeting of EBRD experts with NGOs and independent experts who have presented their opinions and expert assessment in the environmental expertise of Nature Protection Ministry of Armenia.