Statement of Armenian Non-Governmental Organizations and Citizens Regarding Government's Acceptance of 12.5% of Shares of "Lydian Armenia" As Property

Statement of Armenian Non-Governmental Organizations and Citizens Regarding Government's Acceptance of 12.5% of Shares of "Lydian Armenia" As Property

At the session of January 18, 2024, the Armenian government headed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan reached a decision to accept 12.5% of the shares of "Lydian Armenia" as ownership. Armenian NGOs and citizens made a statement regarding this decision, which says: 

"Collective NGO Statement on Armenian Government's Acquisition of 12.5% of Lydian Armenia's Shares as a Donation and Participation in the Amulsar Gold Mine Project in Defiance of Popular Resistance, Community Rights and Democratic Principles

During its regular Cabinet meeting of January 18, 2024, the Government of the Republic of Armenia, chaired by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, approved a decree by which 12.5% of the shares (a total of 12503 shares with a nominal value of 5000 AMD / 12 USD for each) of Lydian Resources Limited Armenia Joint Stock Company, of which Lydian Armenia Closed Joint Stock Company is a subsidiary, were donated to the Government of Armenia in execution of clause 2.1.1. b) of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Government of Armenia, Lydian Armenia and Eurasian Development Bank on February 22, 2023. This government decision has been met with a strong public outcry. A statement has been released with more than 100 NGO signatories and around a similar number of individual signatories collected within a few days only.

During the Cabinet meeting, it was stated that this "gift" is the property of the people of Armenia people and that "the operation of the Amulsar Gold mine with this model dispels many concerns."

The following is the public statement.

"With this statement, we express our indignation regarding the irresponsible actions of the Armenian Government. Concerns have not been dispelled; to the contrary, they have been augmented.

The best international and national experts and scientists have confirmed the environmental, social, economic risks and hazards of the Amulsar gold mining project, questioning the positive impact assessment expertise conclusion provided by the RA Ministry of Nature Protection to the company.

  1. A full expertise (examination) of the environmental impact assessment was not ensured, and the results and conclusions of the audit conducted by ELARD and TRC (original English reports taken down) consulting firms, for which 454.000 US dollars were paid from the state budget, were not taken into account in 2019.
  2. The negative impact on water resources - Lake Sevan, Arpa river's and Vorotan river's catchment basins, Spandaryan and Kechut reservoirs, as well as underground water, the perpetual contamination of surface and underground water due to acid drainage - was not taken into account.
  3. The risks associated with radioactive elements present on the mining site, i.e. uranium, thorium, as well as radon, and the pollution of the environment with the dust containing huge amounts of toxic elements arising from the operation of the mine have been ignored. The risks associated with the use of cyanide heap-leaching technology, banned in many countries around the world, have also been ignored.
  4. The loss of the town of Jermuk as a spa resort of international significance was not taken into account. In the event of the exploitation of the mine, Jermuk will turn into a mining town, the natives of Jermuk will be forced to emigrate, and the workers in the mine will leave Jermuk after mine operation expiry date. In the EIA carried out by Lydian, and in the state environmental examination process, Jermuk was not listed as an affected community, and the destructive impact of the mining operation on it was not taken into account.
  5. Health risks were not taken into account, and an appropriate expertise and mid-term and long-term assessments of this risk were not carried out.
  6. The possible negative impact on "Jermuk" mineral water, the international obligations undertaken by the Bern Convention on the Protection of European Wildlife and Natural Environment in the field of biodiversity protection, were not taken into account.
  7. The opinion and resistance of the population of the affected communities and the wider public against the Amulsar gold mine project has not been taken into account. In particular, in the fall of 2018, the predominant majority of Jermuk enlarged community, around 3 thousand inhabitants, expressed their opposition to the metal mining industry in a petition.
  8. Company due diligence was not conducted, in other words, insufficient effort was made to evaluate the way Lydian Armenia operates, the practices involving unlawfulness, violence against citizens, legal harassment of citizens. Once again, public resources were entrusted to a company registered in tax heavens (offshore zone), with unknown owners and enduring a financial crisis. The phenomenon of legal harassment of citizens is called "strategic lawsuit against public participation" (SLAPP), a practice that brings dishonor to any state, especially to a state that declares itself democratic. Meanwhile, the state structures of Armenia have never attempted to prevent this vicious practice, to protect citizens and human rights activists who support local democracy and environmental protection.
  9. The armed assault of Azerbaijan and invasion of the territory of Armenia including bombardment of Jermuk town on September 13, 2022 was not taken into account. Extraction of gold in Amulsar means disposal of tens of thousands of tons of perpetually toxic and hazardous chemicals, as well as storage and use of explosives in the vicinity of Jermuk. In the event of military operations, these will become an additional hazard not only for Jermuk but also Lake Sevan (due to the contamination of Arpa-Sevan water tunnel), the entire regions of Vayots Dzor, Syunik and Ararat. Under the current state of military aggression, the risks of contamination of the catchment basins of all these water sources, are becoming alarmingly increased.

Illegal Decisions Regarding the Amulsar Project

Questionable decisions paved the way for the Amulsar gold mine project to go ahead.

  1. The Government decree adopted in 2014 enabled "transplantation" of plant species listed in the Red Book of Armenia from their natural habitat to another site, in violation of Article 17 of the RA Law "On Fauna." In effect, this decree facilitated the issuance of extraction permit in the territory of Amulsar Mountain.
  2. In 2015, another decree by the Armenian government altered the permissible slope of overhaul roads in mining sites. This relaxation of safety requirements saved Lydian approximately 100 million US dollars.
  3. A 2016 memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Nature Protection and Lydian Armenia committed Lydian to invest 5 million USD and establish Jermuk National Park within 5 years, a promise not fulfilled to date.
  4. In 2022, an amendment to the Armenian Mining Code granted the right to retroactively extend the subsoil usage rights for mining projects that faced public resistance during the previous 4 years without conducting a new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). This change, benefiting only Lydian, suggests a tailored adjustment in the law solely for the sake of this specific company.

The Government Acquisition of Lydian shares Poses New Financial and Legal Risks for Armenia.

Lydian faced bankruptcy a few years ago, underwent restructuring and transferred ownership rights to its major shareholders. The two major financial institutions, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank Group and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), originally guarantors of the "high international standards" of Lydian and its Amulsar project, are no longer shareholders or investors in this company.

Lydian Armenia is the company that, a few years ago, submitted two notifications to the Armenian Government that investment arbitration might be sought. At that time, the Armenian government officials expressed concerns that if Amulsar were not exploited, the company might seek significant compensation from the state. It is important to note that under the bilateral investor protection agreement applicable to the case, a company registered in tax heavens would not be eligible to access the investor court. However, it appears that the Armenian government is now considering granting this opportunity to the company. We have consistently cautioned that if Lydian initiates operations after re-registering in Canada and subsequently faces a halt to its operations for any reason, it could utilize the investor arbitration mechanism designed to protect private interests. What measures will Armenia take if the company begins construction but fails to continue due to unforeseen circumstances? The Azerbaijani military already controls administrative territories of Jermuk in the town's outskirts, bombardment of these areas have already become a historical fact. What assurances does the Armenian government have that the planned cyanide heap-leaching facility on the slopes of Amulsar will not become a target of an offensive by the neighboring aggressive state?

The Armenian government and the Prime Minister are obliged to ensure the security of the Republic of Armenia and its people, but, unfortunately, we haven not seen prudent decisions and actions regarding the Amulsar mine.

Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan proclaimed the Republic of Armenia a "bastion of democracy," yet his actions seem inconsistent with democratic principles, as he disregards the stance of the people of Armenia.

We denounce the donation of 12.5% of Lydian Armenia's shares to the Armenia government as something "for the sake of people," especially when the affected communities, particularly inhabitants of the enlarged community of Jermuk, have long expressed their opposition to mining in their lands. Over 30,000 signatures on an online petition further demonstrate widespread public support for preserving Amulsar as a mountain with pristine waters.

The Armenian government has also bypassed international partners and commitments. In December 2023, the Bern Convention Secretariat urged the Armenian government to halt any construction activities in Amulsar, to resume establishment of Jermuk National Park, and to protect candidate areas of the Emerald network. In 2022, the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and CEE Bankwatch highlighted corruption risks in the Amulsar project and legal prosecutions (SLAPPs) against environmental activists. Despite these warnings, the Armenian government has not taken any corrective measures.

We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the actions of the Armenian government in this matter. We urge the immediate repeal of the aforementioned decision, considering the numerous risks and threats posed by the Amulsar gold mine project to national security, violations of domestic laws, and non-compliance with international conventions. Our demand is rooted in upholding the people's will and democratic principles.

We are committed to utilizing all available means to ensure that Amulsar Mountain remain untouched, prioritizing public interest over private profits.

We invite fellow citizens and organizations who share our concerns to join our cause.

This statement is open for joining, interested parties can state their support by contacting us via [email protected] email address.

  1. "Green Armenia" environmental educational NGO
  2. "Centre for Community Mobilization and Support" NGO
  3. "Human Rights Research Center" NGO
  4. "EcoLur" information NGO
  5. "Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center" NGO
  6. "Armenian Environmental Front" civic initiative
  7. "Armenian Forests" NGO
  8. Guardians of Amulsar initiative
  9. "Direct Democracy" NGO
  10. "Civic Youth Center" community development NGO
  11. "Helsinki Human Rights Association" NGO
  12. "Helsinki Citizens' Assembly-Vanadzor" NGO
  13. "Public Control" human rights NGO
  14. "Martuni Women's Community Council" NGO
  15. "Ahnidzor" Development Fund
  16. "Helsinki Group of Spitak” human rights NGO
  17. "New Horizons" NGO
  18. "Green Change" agricultural NGO
  19. "Argina" cultural NGO
  20. Journalists' club "Asparez".
  21. "Protection of rights without borders" NGO
  22. "The Armenian Committee of the Helsinki Civil Assembly" NGO
  23. "Women's Resource Center" NGO
  24. "HEBA" Social-educational NGO
  25. "Educational Center for Equal Rights" NGO
  26. "Youth cooperation center of Dilijan" NGO
  27. "Peace Dialogue" NGO
  28. "Bayazet" Center NGO
  29. "Success Lady" youth NGO
  30. Press club of Yerevan
  31. "Multilateral Information Institute" NGO
  32. "Ecological public union" NGO
  33. "Evolution of Vayots Dzor" NGO
  34. "Dalma-Sona" Foundation
  35. "Healthy Environment" NGO
  36. "Progress of Gyumri" CSDP
  37. "Kharuyk" hiking club NGO
  38. "White Squad" NGO
  39. "Khazer" ecological and cultural NGO
  40. "To Eco-youth" youth civic initiative
  41. Chemical Safety Coalition
  42. "MITK" educational-youth initiative NGO
  43. "NGO Center" civil society development NGO
  44. "MENK" youth NGO of Lori region
  45. "FemForward" NGO
  46. ​​"BLEJAN" environmental, social, business support NGO
  47. "Cinemart Youth" NGO
  48. "Youth Opportunities Club" NGO
  49. "Kapan Civic Youth Center" civil initiative
  50. "Intercultural studies and development" NGO
  51. "Journalists for the Future" NGO
  52. "Janus" Legal NGO
  53. "Goy" environmental-legal NGO
  54. "EcoHub" Foundation for Sustainable Development and Active Citizenship
  55. "Armenian Progressive Youth" NGO
  56. "Sustainable Future" EOC
  57. Fem Library initiative
  58. "Federation of Youth Clubs" NGO
  59. "Democratic Platform" Foundation
  60. "Youth Ideas" NGO
  61. "Institute of Public Policy" NGO
  62. "Makrapatum" nature education NGO
  63. "Armenian Camp" NGO
  64. Art and cultural studies laboratory
  65. "Power of Law" NGO
  66. "SOS Mets Ayrum" civil initiative
  67. "Communities Finance Officers Assocation" NGO
  68. "Human rights and public health" NGO
  69. "Pink" human rights NGO
  70. "Stepanavan Youth Center" NGO
  71. "Ecological right" NGO
  72. "Women's Support Center" NGO
  73. "House of Women's Rights" NGO
  74. Media Initiatives Center
  75. “Freedom of Information Center” (FOICA) NGO
  76. "Foundation against the violation of law" NGO
  77. "Pro Paws" animal protection NGO
  78. "MY NAME IS WOMAN" initiative group
  79. "Youth for Change" civil society development NGO
  80. "United Youth Union” NGO
  81. "Lori Youth and Community Development Center" NGO
  82. "Profit" cultural-social organization
  83. "Sacred Land" Charitable NGO
  84. "TARON" Youth Development NGO
  85. "Healthy Hrazdan" civil initiative
  86. "Civil Society Institute" NGO
  87. Endemic and Endangered Species Preservation Fund
  88. "Armenian Inter-Constitutional Human Rights Center" NGO
  89. Committee for the Protection of Freedom of Speech
  90. "Clean Goris" environmental NGO
  91. "Children's society. Center for support of children's and youth enterprises" NGO
  92. "Women's Support Group" NGO
  93. "Veles" human rights NGO
  94. "Civil Development" educational research NGO
  95. "Armenian Santa Claus" charitable foundation
  96. "Pakhra" NGO
  97. "Center for Perspective Development" NGO
  98. "Berd Women's Resource Center Foundation”
  99. "Ecopolis environmental center for community safety and development” NGO
  100. "Guardians of Amulsar" civil initiative
  101. "Real World, Real People" NGO
  102. "Women's Empowerment Development Center" NGO
  103. "TSOLINE" cultural, human rights NGO

104: "Discovering the potential of border-dwelling youth" NGO

105: Eviya Hovhannisyan, social anthropologist

  1. Gohar Yenokyan, resident of Jermuk community
  2. Suzanna Hunanyan, resident of Jermuk community
  3. Susanna Margaryan, resident of Jermuk community
  4. Tigran Hunanyan, resident of Jermuk community
  5. Mkhitar Margaryan, resident of Jermuk community
  6. Zaruhi Stepanyan, resident of Jermuk community
  7. Galeta Margaryan, resident of Jermuk community
  8. Hasmik Sargsyan, RA citizen
  9. Karen Sayadyan, RA citizen
  10. Narime Davtyan, RA citizen
  11. Zorik Vardanyan, resident of Jermuk
  12. Mirhan Khanamiryan, resident of Jermuk
  13. Ashot Daveyan, resident of Jermuk
  14. Hayk Daveyan, resident of Jermuk
  15. Samvel Daveyan, resident of Jermuk
  16. Armen Ghazaryan. citizen of RA
  17. Lusine Gharibyan. citizen of RA
  18. Teresa Alaverdyan. citizen of RA
  19. Vardan Avetyan. resident of Jermuk
  20. Gohar Ghazaryan. resident of Jermuk
  21. Armen Vardanyan. resident of Jermuk
  22. Argishti Vardanyan. resident of Jermuk
  23. Susanna Vardanyan. Resident of Jermuk
  24. Gemma Sargsyan. Resident of Jermuk
  25. Hamlet Davtyan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia
  26. Roza Vardanyan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia
  27. Armen Margaryan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia
  28. Karine Mnatsakanyan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia
  29. Armen Ghazaryan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia
  30. Lusine Gharibyan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia
  31. Tereza Alaverdyan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia
  32. Vardan Avetyan. Citizen of Jermuk
  33. Gohar Ghazaryan. Citizen of Jermuk
  34. Armen Vardanyan. Citizen of Jermuk
  35. Argishti Vardanyan. Citizen of Jermuk
  36. Susanna Vardanyan. Citizen of Jermuk
  37. Jemma Sargsyan. Citizen of Jermuk
  38. Hamlet Davtyan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia
  39. Roza Vardanyan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia
  40. Armen Margaryan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia
  41. Karine Mnacakanyan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia
  42. Arman Ghazaryan. Public figure
  43. Tigran Petrosyan. journalist
  44. Samvel Hayrapetyan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia
  45. Gagik Margaryan. Citizen of Jermuk
  46. Henrik Sargsyan. Citizen of Jermuk
  47. Tsovinar Manukyan. Citizen of Jermuk
  48. Rima Stepanyan. Citizen of Jermuk
  49. Shake Sargsyan. Citizen of Jermuk
  50. Rima Sargsyan. Citizen of Jermuk
  51. Armine Hovsepyan. Citizen of Jermuk
  52. Anahit Abrahamyan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia
  53. Ashot Aleksanyan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia
  54. Gegham Simonyan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia
  55. Sona Mikayelyan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia
  56. Artur Asatryan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia
  57. Adam Artak Arakelyan. Civil activist, citizen of the Republic of Armenia
  58. Arman Aghajanyan. Citizen of Jermuk
  59. Venera Voskanyan. Citizen of Jermuk
  60. Slavik Aghajanyan. Citizen of Jermuk
  61. Astghik Markosyan. Citizen of Jermuk
  62. Hayk Hakhnazaryan. Citizen of Jermuk
  63. Tigran Aghajanyan. Citizen of Jermuk
  64. Hasmik Akskalyan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia
  65. Margarita Hakobjanyan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia
  66. Susanna Rafayelyan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia
  67. Suren Vardanyan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia
  68. Seda Ter-Minasyan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia
  69. Valeri Stepanyan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia"

January 25, 2024 at 13:22