The residents of Berd consolidated community, Tavush Region, rejected the project submitted by "Mountain Metallurgical Institute" CJSC, part of "Vallex" Group, to carry out geological prospecting in Tavush-Khandzorut mineral field. On October 26, 2023, the members of Berd’s Council of Elders, administrative heads of settlements in the consolidated community, NGO representatives of s and concerned residents spoke about the risks and dangers that threaten Berd community in case of mining activities at the public discussion held at Berd’s House of Culture.
"It's no secret that there will be an immeasurable economic influx to our community, but whether it is the price we have to pay for the immeasurable risks we will bear in case of mining operations...? Mine operation does not derive from the socio-economic components of our community's development interests," the residents mentioned.
Kamo Chobanyan, Administrative Head of Upper Karmiraghbyur settlement, mentioned the dangers to the water resources of Berd community in the case of mining operations. "We have water springs in that area. The water sources of Upper Karmiraghbyur, Chinari, Norashen, Artsvaberd, Choratan, Aygedzor, Navur, Chinchin and Tavush villages are located in Murghuz mountain area. If the mine is developed, our health is at risk.
Lernik Babayan, a Berd resident, added that Khndzorut, Tavush and Varagajur rivers originate from Murghuz peak of Miapor mountain range.
Artur Yerkayan, a Berd resident, advised the company to invest their money in a better direction. Addressing the audience, Berd resident Samvel Saghoyan offered to look at the map presented by the company: "Look at what kind of forest layer there is, which will be endangered in the case of mining operations.”
Karen Darbinyan, Administrative Head of Chinchin village, mentioned that the population of their village is completely against the mining operations of the company. "We are a region sustaining on livestock. Tavush Region is famous for its ecologically clean food production. We implement tourist programs. If we are not going to have health, if we are not going to enjoy that money, then we are not interested in it. We shall live poor, but healthy," he noted.
Artur Safaryan, a member of Berd’s Council of Elders, raised the issue of threats to people's health. "The fact is that the mine will increase the permissible limits of harmful metals in the human body.”
Anahit Badalyan, Founding President of i Women's Resource Center Foundation in Berd, noted. "I know what destructive consequences mining operations can have. I couldn't even imagine in my wildest dreams that Tavush would be next. We know about Alaverdi's indicators. Gardens that were irrigated with water contaminated by mining have dried up.”
Oleg Dulgaryan, President of " Center foe Community Mobilization and Support " NGO, outlined, "I am from Alaverdi. You (Sahak Karapetyan - General Director of “Mountain Metallurgy Institute”) mentioned Teghut mine as your boast. But a program that creates many environmental, health and social problems for a large part of the public cannot be a matter of pride."
Kristina Ter-Matevosyan, journalist at "EcoLur" Informational NGO, noted. "Mr. Karapetyan mentioned that Teghut mine is their pride. But Teghut, perhaps, should have been their shame. Let's recall why the company no longer operates that mine, what happened as a result of defaulting on financial obligations. The problems with the dam of the tailing dump were also discussed. The residents who worked at "Teghut" had regular complaints from the company, the promises related to employment were either not fulfilled or partially fulfilled.
And finally, there is the impact on the environment and human health. In 2021, a study was conducted documenting the contamination of the soil and sedimentary waters of rivers with arsenic, lead, and zinc as a result of the operation of Teghut mine. The amount of these metals has exceeded the permissible limits, and these metals are dangerous for human health."
Sahak Karapetyan, General Director of "Mountain Metallurgical Institute" CJSC, avoided mentioning what metals they intend to search for in Berd throughout the hearing, leaving the questions and concerns of the attendees unanswered. After the meeting, he told EcoLur that they are interested in copper. "The claimed area makes up 23.1 sq/km, located in the southern part of Tavush Region, on the northern slopes of Murghuz mountain range (Miapori Mountains), in the basins of Hakh (Varagajur) and Khndzorut rivers, it is 6-14 km away from Berd. Drilling up to 6500 m depth is planned. The project will last three years," Sahak Karapetyan said.
Mher Papyan, Deputy Head of Berd Community, who conducted the meeting, informed that it is planned to convene a meeting of Council of Elders at the end of November, to which the decision of the community should be presented regarding the activities planned by "Mountain Metallurgy Institute" CJSC. Sahak Karapetyan responded to the question of how he will interpret the hearings and whether he considers the matter closed. "Let's wait for the decision of the Council of Elders. Nothing is clear to me yet."
It should be noted that Berd Municipality posted on its Facebook page about the results of the hearings on October 26 stating that Berd community residents are against the project presented by "Mountain Metallurgical Institute" CJSC. All submitted opinions have been documented."
October 27, 2023 at 16:17