Armenia's largest Artsvanik tailing dump operated by Zangezur Copper and Molybdenum Combine (ZCMC) has left considerable land areas in the Artsvanik village of Kapan enlarged community under the wastes of Artsvanik tailing dump.
According to the scientific article "The Outflow of Artsvanik Tailing Dump and Need to Transport Their Emission Point" published in 2018, the mirror of Artsvanik Tailings, commissioned in 1977, was already 288 hectares by 2016.
According to the EIA of changes to Qajaran Copper and Molybdenum Mining Project in 2016, the maximum capacity of Artsvanik tailing dump will be 398 million m3 dam. Most of Artsvanik tailing dump is in the territory of the Artsvanik village. "We have no pastures, we can't even cattle-breed. If we had land areas, we would earn our living ... We have nothing to live for," Artsvanik residents told EcoLur.
In an interview with EcoLur prior to the community enlargement, Artsvanik community head stated that the land was first taken from the Artsvanik village for the tailings dump in 1973 - 240 hectares, then in 2006 - 102 hectares. On May 21, 2015, 274.8378 hectares were by decision 791 N.
With the governmental resolution 791-N dated on May 21, 2015 an eminent public domain was recognized for the extension of the Artsvanik tailing dump in the administrative boundaries of Artsvanik, Sevaqar, Atchani, Chapni and Syunik rural communities - a total of 491,8093 hectares. Out of these 5 villages, the most public eminent domain was recognized towards Artsvanik village with 274,8378 hectares of agricultural land.
Residents of these villages, especially Artsvanik, were against providing their lands for the needs of ZCMC. After the revolution, in May 2018, the residents of Artsvanik, Chapni and Sevakar villages closed the Goris-Kapan interstate road in the area of Artsvanik, demanding to stop the exploitation of Artsvanik tailing dump by Zangezur Copper and Molybdenum Combine.
On February 1, 2019 Zangezur Copper and Molybdenum Charitable Foundation and the residents of Artsvanik, Sevakar and Chapni villages signed an agreement to donate 40,000 AMD to each resident from February 1, 2019 to January 31, 2020 aimed at mitigating the adverse impact on the social situation of beneficiaries actually residing in the rural areas adjacent to Artsvanik tailing dump.
Meanwhile, the residents said: “They have taken our lands for the tailing dump and compensated with insignificant amounts. We had formed an initiative group, which had a meeting with the director of the plant Mher Poloskov. During the meeting we said that the tailing dump should be relocated and people should be compensated for economic and health damage. He told us that within 7 years the issue would be resolved and the dump will be recultivated. Our demand was 70,000 AMD. However, they agreed to provide 40,000 drams for each resident, as well as an additional 10,000 drams for social programs. We consulted with the villagers and agreed, as there was no alternative at that time. What will happen to us in two years is unclear."
In addition to the loss of agricultural land, the Artsvanik residents also lost their forest lands for the expansion of the tailing dump. According to the official data, the forest lands of the village with a total of 2819 hectares made up 1112 hectares, of which 898 hectares are forest-covered land areas. In 2018, Syunik activists released the photos of the forests being felled down for the Artsvanik tailing dump.
Dust is also a major issue for Artsvanik residents. In the case of wind, the tailing dump dust is blown off in the direction of the village.
Artsvanik residents demand that the plant take steps to close the tailing dump, not to pollute the air and to damage them. “There is almost no healthy person in our village. They need to compensate, support the villagers to get access to these services free of charge,” the residents said.
"It should be put before the government that these people have always been deprived of their livelihoods because of the combine. The village should have dealt with tourism,’ the residents said.
ZCMC is searching for a new tailing dump. We learned about it in a letter from Mher Poloskov, CEO of ZCMC in September 2018 to Nature Protection Minister Erik Grigoryan and Minister of Energy Infrastructures and Natural Resources Arthur Grigoryan commissioned prestigious UK-based SRK Consulting Company to conduct preliminary studies. The company and provide recommendations on the possible options of locating the tailing dump.
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.
15:20 August 28, 2019