General tendencies of poor management reflected on the economic and social situation in 2013 and characteristic both to environment and nature protection. The following should be mentioned: increasing political orders in the field of soil management, absence of officials’ responsibility for committed violations, neglecting environmental legislation, default of obligations undertaken by international conventions, transfer of some part of authorities from Nature Protection Ministry to other departments. The tendency can be observed starting from 2008. A practice has been established when bylaws, governmental decisions, different licenses, permits are approved with apparent violation of laws. The mechanisms for environmental management - expertise, granting permits and control, are used arbitrarily. As a matter of fact, “nature protection” concept is used to cover business interests. In 2013 PM Tigran Sargsyan directly stated it, when he returned RA draft law “On Environmental Impact Expert Assessment” for amendments and supplementing and added, “The draft law doesn’t promote improving the business environment.” Despite the evident mishap so that the environmental law should promote nature protection rather than business interests, the Nature Protection Ministry performed the PM’s order and the appropriate provision were taken off the draft law and the draft law was submitted to the National Assembly of Armenia in this format.
On Environmental Expertise
125 projects underwent environmental expertise in 2013, out of which 53 projects refer to mining and relevant objects. The most risky projects, which caused public and local protest, should be outlined. These projects are as follows: mining projects in Meghri area, Syunik Region, Litchq copper and Aygedzor copper and molybdenum mining project (“Tatstone” company), ore processing factory in Tashtun (AT Metals Company), Gladzor polymetallic mining project in Vayots Dzor (“Vayq Resources” Company), cyanic plant construction project in Gndevaz (Geoteam Company), Tukhmanuk tailing dump construction project in Aragatsotn Region (Global Gold Mining Company), cyanic plant construction project in Meghradzor in Kotayk Region (Meghradzor Gold Company), then the company changed cyanic technologies to thiourea technology, Shorzha mining project in Gegharkounik Region(Gegamet Plus Company).
Out of 53 projects submitted to Environmental Expertise SNCO in mining industry, four projects were rejected, including cyanic plant construction project in Meghradzor, Tukhmanuk tailing dump construction project in Aragatsotn Region, Gladzor polymetallic mining project in Vayots Dzor and Shorzha mining project, the rest 49 projects were approved.
23 projects submitted for expertise refer to the construction of SHHPs. The most scandalous projects are as follows: “Khachaghbyur-2”, “Martziget-1”, “Daranak”, “Stepanavan-2”, “Gndevank”, which caused the protest of public activists and locals. Despite the negative opinions submitted for the expertise, the evidence that the minutes of the public hearings were faked in certain cases, protest letters from community residents and even reports on crimes addressed to the Public Prosecutor’s office, all 23 projects were granted positive opinion of the expertise.
Like the environmental expertise, the control in environment is carried out arbitrarily and doesn’t comply with the factually recorded violations. It should be mentioned that a part of the violations, which public report to the Nature Protection Ministry, are left without examinations by the competent body - the State Environmental Inspection.
The State Environmental Inspection is not entitled to carry out examinations, if it doesn’t have the Nature Protection Minister’s assignment and isn’t entitled to provide information, even if tails are dumped into environment polluting water and land areas because of breakdowns, i.e. the control is also arbitrary, which enables to speak about high corruption risks in this field.
Let’s compare the real situation about damage caused to environment with the examinations of the inspection.
Our observations show what was recorded in 2013 only under official information:
1. Two accidents at Geghi copper and molybdenum mine (“Ler Ex” Company),
2. Three accidents at the tailing pipe of Zangezour copper and molybdenum combine,
3. Two accidents in Argitchi SHHP, where the fish, endemic fish species of Lake Sevan, was blown out of the tailing pipe,
4. Accident in Alaverdi copper smelting combine, which resulted in toxic emissions to cover the town,
5. Emissions in Stepanavan, into the Dzoraget River. Official cause of emissions is unknown.
6. Mass death of fish recorded in Dalar, Arararat Region and in Hrazdan Region.
7. Accident of the catch water drain in Teghut.
8. Illegal construction of ore processing plant in Tashtoun by “AT Metals” Company. After a month, the documents of the project were dated with a back date with no sanctions following.
Accidents are accompanied with deaths. A man died because of unreasonable construction of “Khachaghbyur-2” SHPP, which caused activation of landslides. A man died in Sotq, where GeoPromining Company didn’t follow the mine rehabilitation standards and didn’t cover the used galleries. A worker was injured at Dundee Precious Metals Kapan in Kapan. One worker die and another was injured at “Teghout” CJSC. A worker died at Meghradzor Gold Company: nobody bears responsibility for the deaths of these people.
Under the data of the State Environmental Inspection, 897 violations were detected in 2013, 663 acts were drawn up in the amount of 45.5 million AMD, 438 minutes were drawn up in damages in the amount of 103.7 million AMD (a total of US $400,000). Majority of fines were imposed for illegal forest felling, nevertheless, violations, consequences and risks may become irreversible and are left practically non-punished.
Mining companies dumping their wastes into river are imposed fines in the amount of several thousands of drams, which is insignificant for any mining company. The arbitrariness in this sector is complete. Such companies continuously poisoning the environment, as GeoProMining Gold, Agarak copper and molybdenum combine, Sagamar, Akhtala ore processing plant, and Teghut are imposed minimum fines. Dundee Precious Metals Kapan Company is under the threat of being fined in the amount of one million USD. Zangezour copper and molybdenum combine has been fined from 100,000 up to 400,000 AMD (US $300-1000). For all our enquiries about examinations, alarm signals, fine sums etc the Nature Protection Ministry replies, “All the information you requested is displayed on the website of the ministry and is disseminated in the press releases.”
Economic development Armenia occurs at the expense of exhaustion of natural resources, mass impoverishment of the population, and migration of rural population. We have continuously deteriorating environment, polluted, water, land and loss of species.
The main problems of 2014 will be the problems, which have all the grounds to be considered uncontrollable and touch strategic and national interests of the country. To be continued in the review.
15:01 January 17, 2014