Armenian Environmental Front
The most hazardous tailing dump in Armenia is located in the Ararat Valley, near the fish farms in Armash and Ararat. The tailings dump area is 135 hectares, but it is 196 hectares and is filled with approximately 15 million cubic meters of tailings rich in cyanide as well as numerous heavy and hazardous metals.
It is operated by Ararat Gold Extraction Plant, which processes ore from Sotq gold mine. It belongs to Russian GeoProMining Gold Company.
The tailings dump of Ararat Extraction Plant causes significant damage to the natural environment by emitting 0.083 tonnes of sulfuric anhydride to the atmosphere, 80 tonnes of cyanide per year, 17.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, 1,28 tonnes of mining dust of 8.0 tonnes per year. During the operation, no emergency situation has been reported in the tailing dump, but several accidents have been reported in the collector stretching towards the plant leaving these areas out of further agricultural cultivation. Control and measuring devices are used to control, inspect and report to maintain the tailings structure (Source of data - 2010, page 170).
Page 173 of the same document states that the sanitary protection zone is established at a distance of 300 m tailing dump boundary according to the normative documents. However, during operation, the area adjacent to the tailing dump was currently owned by individual entrepreneurs who built ponds for fish farming in the area, which is unacceptable.
GeoProMining Gold Company announced in 2015 that it will operate a water circulation system and will not have any leak into water ponds. The Permissible Atmospheric Emissions (PSA) project of the plant provides some data on the production capacity of the ore being processed at 1 million ton/year.
The qualitative and quantitative characteristics of the company's emissions of atmospheric pollutants were also incorporated into the PSA project. Emissions contain 12 names of pollutants: ore, coal, powders, suspended particles, carbon, nitrogen oxides, acidic, nitrogenous and sulfuric acid evaporation, cyanogen. The annual amount of emissions into the atmosphere makes up 47.9 tonnes.
The project estimated the economic damage to the natural environment due to emissions of harmful substances to be 175.2 million drams annually.
The real pollution and other negative environmental impacts of this plant and tailing dump are virtually unknown to any state body. All facts are based exclusively on the data provided by the operating company, which cannot be considered as an acceptable option.
As an alternative source, we have the results of a land survey conducted by the American University of Armenia and published in 2016 on the playgrounds and kindergartens and public landscapes in Ararat. A total of 52 soil samples were taken to determine arsenic, copper, cadmium, mercury and lead concentrations. They may not be considered complete and sufficient, but they at least give a rough picture of the situation.
· Arsenic concentrations in our soil samples ranged from 7.35 to 23.94 mg/kg. The geometric means (GMs) of all samples exceeded the Armenian Soil Standard (SS)7 by 6.5 times.
· Cadmium concentrations in soil samples ranged from 0.10 to 0.82 mg/kg. As the Armenian SS does not specify allowable concentrations for cadmium, it is not possible to draw conclusions based on Armenian law.
· Copper concentrations ranged from 11.15 to 103.40 mg/kg. The Armenian SS for copper is 3 mg/kg. Hence, all soil samples exceeded Armenian SS for copper, with the mean for all samples 14.7 times of the Armenian SS.
· Lead levels in soil samples ranged from 25.30 to 96.57 mg/kg. The Armenian SS for lead is 32 mg/kg.
· Mercury levels in Ararat soil samples range from 0.37 to 2.37 mg/kg. Our analysis shows that the background level for mercury is 0.50 mg/kg.
These episodic studies show that there are problems with soil contamination with heavy metals in Ararat, and the researchers find it necessary to study other areas by necessarily adding to the list of metals studied; chromium, zinc, nickel, magnesium, manganese, cobalt, selenium, telur, bismuth, etc. It is also recommended to carry out continuous monitoring to investigate soil contamination with heavy metals due to mining or other economic activities.
According to our data, the impact of Ararat tailing dump on groundwater and adjacent fish farms has not been studied at all and it is unknown whether there are any risks to these water basins. Water sampling shall be carried out to examine the concentrations of cyanide, other chemical compounds and heavy metals in it. Last but not least, we recommend watching the video shot by Tehmine Yenoqyan entitled “Tailing Dumps: Gifts”.
15:11 December 04, 2019