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JERMOUK – RESORT OR MINE?

JERMOUK – RESORT OR MINE?
April 20, 2011

Tehmine Yenokyan, EcoLur

Amoulsar is located on the border of Vayots Dzor and Syunik Regions. Not far from the mines are situated small villages such as Gndevaz, Gorayk, Saralanj, Saravan and Ketchout, as well as Jermuk Town.

We headed for Vayots Dzor in EcoLur working group so as to get to know the situation closer.

On April 9, Saturday, we arrived in Gndevaz. The first thing we learnt was the people employed at the company get rather high salary for the village, 100,000 AMD. We were told Geoteam has renovated the kindergarten and soon in Gndevaz the sewing workshop will start operating to produce bags designed for transportation of ore material. To cut short, the villagers are very pleased with the company, but here a question arises: what these programs pursue? We couldn’t see documents where one may get acquainted with the logic of taken measures.

When we asked whether they asked the company for the list of social events or the company’s action plan, expenditure, one of the villagers said, “I even consider it unsuitable to ask such questions. It’s the same as to drop in at your neighbor’s house who is having his house renovated and to ask how much he spent.”

The reality is the company intends to mine gold and these measures are aimed to compensate people’s health which are hurt because of mine development. These people have first-hand knowledge about risks.

We were told another mine is being developed together with Amoulsar which has a high content of silver and lead. Workers don’t even know who the owner is, they just know he is “from Yerevan.” We were also told these mines have uranium and those working in these mines are exposed to radiation. “It will certainly impact. I didn’t work long and wasn’t exposed much, but I left. But those people who work for 1-2 years, how it won’t impact?” said one of the villagers.

Geoteam Company proposes developing the mine in opencast manner and asserts there are no risks for villagers. Gndevaz villagers said, “The company told us we know about uranium, but we won’t explode at such a depth.” Even if the content of uranium and lead in the ore doesn’t pose any industrial interest for the company, during explosions toxic elements may get spread in far distances with dust, while millions of tons of dumps and barren rock will be formed while mining. Aggressive elements they contain will be absorbed into underground and ground waters together with precipitation. Nobody knows what consequences will be.

The affected zone includes 5-6 small communities. One of them, Ketchout, is located in the administrative territory of Jermuk Town, in the distance of 2-3 km from away. Surprisingly Geotam Company persuades Jermuk Residents dust and pollution won’t reach Jermuk as the distance is a huge one.

On this basis Jermuk is not included in the project affected area of opencast development. The public hearings in Jermuk were not held and Jermuk residents don’t know anything about the mine to be developed nearby. They only heard there is some uranium and that’s why they don’t know who to ask their questions.

Jermuk is a resort of international significance. Whether Jermuk will remain a resort after Amoulsar opencast development or we should run a S.O.S. Jermuk campaign?