Crushed Hopes: Socio-Environmental Problems in Meliqgyugh and Tukhmanuk Gold Mine Impact

Crushed Hopes: Socio-Environmental Problems in Meliqgyugh and Tukhmanuk Gold Mine Impact

In 2019, RA Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure terminated the soil management right and the mountain allocation act of "Mego Gold" LLC to the central section of Tukhmanuk gold mine in Aragatsotn Region, and terminated the soil management contract. The company, however, appealed the order of TAI minister. "Mego Gold" LLC was supposed to operate the central site of Tukhmanuk gold mine for about 30 years, during 2012-2040, while after 2015 it did not carry out any work in the mine. According to the EITI Armenia website, the company did not mine, sell or export in 2016-2019.

Tukhmanuk gold mine is located in Meliqgyugh Community, Aragatsotn Region, which is currently facing many socio-economic problems: lack of jobs, low wages, problems with food sale, poor roads, lack of pharmacies. The community is engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry, but the incomes of the residents are not sufficient to solve their daily problems. There are many reasons. Because of the areas provided to Mego Gold, the pastures have been reduced, there is no irrigation water, there is a problem with the sale of food.

The residents said they would agree to the redevelopment of the mine to create jobs in the community. According to the information published on the EITI website, the number of employees in the company in 2016, 2017 and 2018 was 23, 19 and 20, respectively, out of which only 8 were from Meliqgyugh. The residents are more in favor of safe, sustainable, continuous income-generating work, and expect the response of the relevant authorities to address this issue.

Litigation against Mego Gold

Derenik Shahbazyan, Meliqgyugh Community Head, considers the operation of the mine only when the company signs a new contract with the community, which prescribes all the company's obligations, clarifies the section on the company's social programs, and regularly informs about the activities and income. "They must work transparently. how much raw material they processed, how much they took from here. All this must occur in a way that both the population and we know about it," he said.

Derenik Shahbazyan expects the company to fulfill its tax obligations to the community. According to Community Head, "Mego Gold" LLC has not paid the annual rent of 45 million AMD set for the lease of 226 hectares of the community since 2016. The municipality applied to the court with a claim for rent collection.

According to the ruling by the Court of General Jurisdiction of Kentron-Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan City, the company was declared bankrupt in 2016. In 2019, RA Bankruptcy Court started liquidation proceedings against "Mego Gold" LLC.

Non-reclaimed Tailing Dumps - Suspended Problem of Meliqgyugh

In addition to not paying its debts, Mego Gold has also faced environmental problems in Meliqgyugh community, as the company's tailing dumps have not been reclaimed and dust releases from industrial landfills continue to this day.

According to Derenik Shahbazyan, the company did not recycle the tailing dumps, as it planned to recycle the industrial waste accumulated there in order to extract gold. The Community Head mentioned that the company could use the layer of rock removed in time for the construction of roads as a necessary ground for reclamation.

According to Derenik Shahbazyan, the location of the tailing dump was chosen incorrectly from the beginning. It was built very close to the drinking water line. "I read in the contract that the tailing dumps should be about 90 meters away from the drinking water line, but it is not adhered to. Our drinking water flows near the tailing dump. This year we changed pipes with a subsidy program. We took it a little further, but we couldn't do our best," he said.

The community head noted that irrigation water was polluted in the initial period of operation of the mine, which, in its turn, led to contamination of potato fields.

Another problem with irrigation water is the insufficient quantity. "We are watering the fields with the hope of rain. As a priority issue of the village, the residents mentioned the poor condition of the roads, which is exacerbated during the winter months. “There is no pharmacy in the village. When medicine is needed, it takes four hours to get to and from Aparan. When the storms start, it becomes impossible to get to the road," they said.

For the development of the village, the residents suggested building a medical dispensary, a kindergarten and a house of culture. "Our children are deprived of song, dance and sports clubs. A building must be provided for this. It is necessary to find a solution with the cooperation of all circles," the residents said. The diamond processing plant was providing jobs in the community, which stopped working due to the coronavirus. "They get the raw materials from abroad, that's why it doesn't work," the community head.

According to Derenik Shahbazyan, ecotourism is also promising in Meliqgyugh.

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.

May 20, 2021 at 13:26