Discussion at Media Center around Disputable Mining Sector Development Strategy

Discussion at Media Center around Disputable Mining Sector Development Strategy

On May 11, 2023, RA government adopted resolution "On Approving Mining Sector Development Strategy and Action Plan Arising from It". Civil society, however, voices that a number of recommendations aimed at solving the problems of the sector were left out of the strategic document. the civil society faction of the Multistakeholder Group (MSG) of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) has already issued two statements demanding the government's decision to be invalidated, as the document is subject to a strategic environmental assessment (SEA).

On May 17, a press conference on "Mining industry strategy was adopted, but with problematic clauses: how come?" was held at "Media Center" with the participation of Hovhannes Harutyunyan, Deputy Minister of RA Territorial Administration and Infrastructures, Naira Barseghyan - lawyer of Department of Internal Soil at TAI, Sona Ayvazyan - Executive Director of "Transparency International" anti-corruption center, Environmental Law Specialist Artur Grigoryan, and Oleg Dulgarian, President of " Center for Community Mobilization and Support" NGO.

Hovhannes Harutyunyan responded to the observation regarding the illegal promotion of the document. "The positions related to accepting and not accepting all kinds of opinions are presented in the published summary sheets. It should be taken as an official comment."

Oleg Dulgarian noticed that the wording "illegal" refers to the fact that a strategic ecological assessment of the project should be carried out. Referring to the public participation in the discussion of the document, he mentioned: “There were closed meetings in the affected Teghut and Kapan communities. At the meeting held in Teghut, the participants proposed to establish damage assessment and offsetting and other infrastructure development mechanisms, but they were not included in the strategy. Meanwhile, the strategy must address all problems and needs.”

Hovhannes Harutyunyan mentioned that there are guidelines for developing mechanisms in the action plan of the document related to the regulations.

Sona Ayvazyan mentioned that being a member of the civil society faction of the Multistakeholder Group (MSG) of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), they were involved in the discussions from the beginning, but they consider it necessary to present the shortcomings related to the process to the interested public as well. “When we say illegal advancement, we mean that the process did not meet the requirements of RA laws and international conventions. We gave about 70 recommendations for the fourth version of the draft in August 2022. Until now, the opinions of other interested parties may have been accepted, the draft was revised and should have been re-submitted on www.e-draft.am website to see the dynamics, it should have been discussed and only submitted to the government," she outlines.

Artur Grigoryan noted that the World Bank has circled a framework of reporting documents on its website, for which a SEA should be carried out. "Another line says that there should be a plan to involve the beneficiaries. Comments submitted in any way must be properly responded to by developers. I sent a comment by email and it was not even answered. As for substantive issues, what is stated in the strategy document, what concerns the solution of important environmental issues, is not provided with the proper tools needed for implementation. A complex document is needed, where a complex diagnosis of the problems is carried out," he said.

Sona Ayvazyan added that it is in the interest of RA government that the document be acceptable. "We think it is necessary to take a step back, recognize the Government's resolution as invalid and refer to the processes established by law."

In response, Hovhannes Harutyunyan mentioned that they are planning to organize a substantive discussion in the near future and to highlight the points that need to be subject to obligatory expert assessment.

May 17, 2023 at 17:57