The town of Qajaran in Syunik Region is under the influence of the largest copper mine in Armenia, Qajaran. In this mining town, environmental issues are particularly acute, especially heavy metal dust pollution. The dust reaches the city from the Qajaran open pit, refuse area, combine production sites, and trucks.
EcoLur held a discussion on the current problems, reports of Zangezur Copper and Molybdenum Combine CJSC (ZCMC), financial data published by ZCMC, survey of community residents and people’s expectations from the state in Qajaran Town within the frameworks of “Affected Communities in the Mining Industry – Fill Participants in the EITI Process” project.
Garegin Gabrielyan, Head of Environmental, Agriculture and Economic Development Programs at Qajaran Community Staff, said during the discussion: “There is a dust problem in Kajaran. At one time the Environmental Monitoring and Information Center asked us to build a station here together with them from the money we received from environmental fees and community funds. We were in favor, but because of the lack of money we couldn't build a station and obtain equipment.”
It should be noted that according to the first EITI report of Armenia, the impact of atmospheric air on Qajaran city is 70% due to ZCMC activities, 50% for water basin and 50% for waste and 30% for production and consumption as estimated per environmental fees.
According to the data published in the first national EITI report of Armenia, ZCMC's total revenue in 2016 was 126,468,148,384 AMD, and in 2017 – 187,297,500,633 AMD. In 2016, the plant paid 11,990,684 AMD as an environmental payment, and in 2017 – 22,376,624 AMD.
In 2016, projects amounting to 15,619,000 AMD were implemented through environmental subsidies in Kajaran.
In 2017, projects amounting to 8,400,000 AMD were implemented. According to Garegin Gabrielyan, the subsidies received from environmental fees are very small for the implementation of large projects: “The amount of environmental fees this year was about 22 million drams. Last year there was not any at all. For years, we used to donate money to health care every year. The law was amended and the community is no longer subsidized for the import of environmentally harmful products. Many projects remained unrealized,” Gabrielyan said.
ZCMC allocated funds to Qajaran for social programs. According to the EITI report, ZCMC allocated 10,000,000 AMD to Qajaran community in 2016 and 108,463,740 AMD in 2017. 2016-2017 ZCMC made the largest money transfers to various organizations and foundations:
• Charity Foundation of Zangezur Copper and Molybdenum Combine – 659,800,000 and 945,000,000 AMD, respectively
• Luys Cultural Scientific Educational Fund – 600,000,000 and 650,000,000 AMD, respectively
• Public Diplomacy NGO – 410,000,000 AMD and 435,000,000 AMD, respectively
• Syunik Regional Development and Investment Fund in 2017 – 335,000,000 AMD
• ZCMC Trade Union Trade Organization – 193,450,000 and 144,746,900, respectively
• Hayastan All Armenian Fund – 168,000,000 and 168,071,750 AMD
• Fund for the Development of Border Communities - 150,000,000 AMD in 2016
• Chronimet Charity Foundation in 2017 - 145,000,000 AMD.
ZCMC provided 21 more organizations and foundations with smaller cash grants in the amount of 73,589,000 AMD in 2016, and 137,776,902 AMD in 2017. As suggestions for mitigating the impact of mining in the community, discussion participants in Kajaran noted:
• The need to revise the Law on Environmental Fees and to deduct from the total amount of environmental fees as before,
• Implementation of landscaping activities,
• Monitoring of atmospheric air and implementation of pollution prevention measures,
• Providing 10% of Zangezur Copper and Molybdenum Combine CJSC to Qajaran and Kapan communities. Particularly this suggestion was justified by the fact that the combine trucks damage the interstate highways, while those cars being registered in Yerevan, the property tax is paid to the capital.
• Strict monitoring of mine activities by NGOs.
• Organizing public hearings with the population, rather than the mayor, prior to allocating new areas for ZCMC activities.
• Regular state investigation of the air, water and soil and informing the population about the results also through leaflets.
• Adjustment of the amount of environmental fees to the amount of damage caused, instead of charitable donations.
• Ensure representation of members of the mining community in the EITI Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG).
This material has been prepared within “Mining-Impacted Communities – Full Participants in EITI Process'” project implemented by EcoLur with the USAID support within the frames of “Engaged Citizenry for Responsible Governance” project implemented by Transparency International Anticorruption Center.
This article is made possible by the generous support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.
12:52 August 27, 2019