Qaraberd Municipality, Owning Gold, Located in Caravan

Qaraberd Municipality, Owning Gold, Located in Caravan

Qaraberd Community, Lori Region, rich in gold and silver resources, lives in poverty. The "building" of the municipality is a caravan, where there is not even a computer. The promises of social assistance to Qaraberd for the operation of Qaraberd gold mine by "ASSAT" LLC given in 2012 have not been kept for years.

Qaraberd Village, restored in 1990, has no school, no kindergarten, no aid station, no irrigation system. The visible wealth of the village is the extravagant nature of the place - the dense forests. The main occupation in Qaraberd is agriculture and cattle breeding, but as it is mentioned in the community socio-economic development program for 2017-2021, dealing with agriculture is also unprofitable.

The village gave its consent for the operation of Qaraberd gold mine in 2012, hoping that new jobs would be created, the village would develop, and the social situation of the people would improve. But the hopes were not fulfilled. "Qaraberd mine has not been working since 2014. They worked for a few days and stopped again, the enterprise was declared bankrupt. They signed a soil management contract again in 2019 to exploit it, but it has not been exploited yet so far,” Yurik Shavelyan told EcoLur.

According to official documents, Qaraberd mine, with exhausted supplied of 272555.9 tons, out of which 1443.48 kg of gold and 2583.5 kg of silver, was to be operated by ASSAT LLC by 2024. Nevertheless, in 2016 the company was declared bankrupt by the decision  of the Court of General Jurisdiction of Ararat and Vayots Dzor Regions. Bankruptcy process started in 2018. A meeting of creditors of "ASSAT" LLC was convened to discuss the previously amended financial rehabilitation plan submitted by the debtor.

We did not find any other information about the bankruptcy of "ASSAT" other than this official information on the Internet. Instead, it is clear from the Company's report on the EITI website that in 2018 the Company paid the state fee for the soil management permit in the amount of 10 million AMD, which it did not do in 2017.

Under the soil management contract, "ASSAT" LLC undertook to allocate 400,000 AMD annually to the community to provide assistance to vulnerable families in Qaraberd, and 200,000 AMD to participate in the community socio-economic development program, repair of inter-community roads, and school and kindergarten needs. The support provided by the contract for the school and kindergarten is especially noteworthy taken into consideration they had not existed in the community before the contract was signed.

The ASSAT LLC’s report for 2016 is missing from the official website of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative of Armenia (EITI). The line of social assistance to the community for 2017, 2018 in the company's reports is null. The lines for the payment of property tax, land tax and rents to the community by the Company are null. In 2018, the Ministry of Energy Infrastructure and Natural Resources of the Republic of Armenia initiated administrative proceedings against ASSAT for arrears.

In 2019, the proceedings were terminated because the Company paid 660,000 AMD for social assistance. However, Qaraberd Community Head did not mention anything about this. Within the framework of the same administrative proceeding, the Company repaid the debt of 976,800 AMD to the Environmental Protection Fund, and 287,500 AMD intended for monitoring.

It should be noted that, in accordance with Article 20, Section 7 of RA Law on Environmental Impact Assessment and Expertise, the conclusion of the environmental expertise issued for the operation of the central site of Qaraberd gold mine in 2012 was invalid, as the Company did not operate the mine. 

The residents who met EcoLur in the sparsely populated town of Qaraberd were mostly opposed to the mine's re-operation. "I am against the gold mine, because the pastures will be damaged, they will carry out explosions, and the dust will affect us, our products. How will we benefit from the use of the gold that was taken out, we will still be in our destroyed houses ...I know that if they work, carry out explosions, the grass will be completely spoiled. If there are explosions, the dust settles on the grass, the animal grazes, it gets sick, we will get sick with it ... There shouldn’t be an operating mine near the village. It should be far away ...," they said.

For the development of the village, Qaraberd residents offer to boost livestock, repair the central road of the village, which can be a new source of income for the development of tourism, repair the inter-field roads of the village to organize the accumulation of fodder, solve the problem with irrigation water. 
Regarding the mines, they offered:

- Inform the residents about the programs related to Qaraberd gold mine. In case of re-development of the mine, give priority to the local population to be employed in the mine.
- To develop both Qaraberd gold and the quarry in strict compliance with environmental norms. 
- Timely fulfill the obligations undertaken by "ASSAT" LLC under the soil management contract.

This material has been prepared within “Liability of Non-operating Mining Companies in EITI Process” project impletmened 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.

November 26, 2020 at 15:13