The central section of Hanqasar copper-molybdenum mine in Syunik Region has not been developed since 2014. The right to use the soil management belongs to "Ler-X" LLC for the period from 2012 to 2032. In December 2020, the company held a public discussion on the mine closure plan in Qajaran community. The project, however, has not yet undergone an environmental impact assessment.
The Environmental Impact Assessment Center told EcoLur that the expertise of the mine closure plan was initially suspended and sent for revision.
"They say the resources are not economically profitable, that's why it didn't work," Garegin Gabrielyan, Head of Department of Environment, Agriculture and Economic Development Programs of Qajaran Municipality, told EcoLur about the reason for not developing the mine.
According to the locals, the other reason for the mine not working was technical problems. The Geghi River was polluted because of the mining. “Ler-X” ore dressing plant was to operate on a fully circulating water use system. However, this system did not work for various technical and organizational reasons. As a result, the clarified waters of the tailing dump flooded into the Geghi River. "There was a leak. Everything flowed into the Geghi River. The water was like milk and it smelled very bad, like a rotten egg. When the mine stopped, there was nothing left, it was clean water, we could drink water from that river,” the villagers said about the problem of river pollution.
Surik Tevanyan, Former Community Head of affected Nor Astghaberd settlement, said that the company left the drain in the river in the evening so that the animals would not drink that water during the day. "Then they built a pipeline through which the water would go and join the tail pipeline of Zangezur Copper and Molybdenum Combine, from where it would go to Artsvanik tailing dump and not mix with the river. They stopped it, it didn't work," he said.
According to the residents of Nor Astghaberd, the company dismantled the ore dressing plant, part of the property was transferred to Zangezur Copper and Molybdenum Combine.
It should be noted that "Zangezur Copper-Molybdenum Combine" CJSC was bought by "Ler-X" company, and 1200-1400 tons of ore brought daily from Qajaran copper-molybdenum mine was processed in "Ler-X" factory. The tailing dump has not been reclaimed. "It is not a big tailing dump, it is a dry tailing dump. They should cover it as soon as possible so that the dust does not rise from the winds and harm the nature,” Surik Tevanyan said.
Image of Tailing Dump from Space
“Ler-X” did not have any socio-economic obligations to the affected communities under its soil management contract. According to the company's and Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure’s reports published within the framework of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), Nor Astghaberd Community (Qajaran Community after enlargement) was not provided any social or charitable assistance.
However, Vasil Zakaryan, the administrative representative of Nor Astghaberd anf Geghi settlements, mentioned that the company had provided support. He said that "Ler-X" has built a bridge and a drinking water line in the community, provided a free bus, repaired roads and solved the problem of street lighting.
According to Surik Tevanyan, 60-80% of the residents of Nor Astghaberd "both worked in the mine and were engaged in cattle breeding."
In their conversation with EcoLur, the locals mentioned that some of the employees were from Kapan and Qajaran communities. As a suggestion for the socio-economic development of the settlements, the locals mentioned the need to provide the community with clean water, improve roads and provide inter-community transport, as well as establish a processing plant.
Garegin Gabrielyan, Head of Department of Nature Protection, Agriculture and Economic Development Programs of Qajaran Municipality, said that the villagers work in the mine under the conditions of the mining industry in the community, and do not suffer with the land works. As a result, the village is not developing.
"As a rule, the economy is polarized in the mining communities of Armenia. We need to compensate for the impact of the mining industry to some extent and think about the future. Those mines will be closed one day, and what will the population do after these mines close down? The population must be prepared for the closure. It should be regulated both by government decisions and included in closure programs," he said. Gabrielyan stressed that with the programs of closing the mines, small trainings should be organized for the villagers on the development of the branches of agriculture.
"The influence of large organizations on the area is great, there should be a direction for the development of small enterprises, even for some of the services needed by mining companies shall be organized in the area, orders should be given to the companies operating in the area," he said.
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.
June 16, 2021 at 15:51