Pennies on the Dollar

Garen Yegparian


What if 98 cents of every dollar you had was taken from you?

What if those dollars were in the form of inherited family wealth that had sustained infants, college students, and octogenarian retirees alike since time immemorial?

What if on top of taking your wealth, in the process, you were also saddled with additional debts of unknown magnitude?

What if on top of the theft, loss of legacy, and debts, you were made sick by the same agents who inflicted the rest of the pain on you?

What if, finally, just to make things look less obscene, the perpetrators of this travesty threw a few bones your way?

I suspect you would be seething, raging, fuming with anger, and doing anything you could to remedy the situation.

Well, here’s your chance, because what I described above is exactly what’s happening in the northern reaches of the Republic of Armenia, in the forests of Teghut.

Design by Harry Vorperian

It’s anticipated that more than $20 billion dollars worth of (primarily) copper will be mined from beneath the old growth forests that currently cover the area over the anticipated 25-ish year life of the mining operation. Sounds pretty good, right? That a lot of money in a country with a struggling economy, right? It’ll provide jobs, right?

Except… in the process of extracting the ore

  • the whole area will be denuded of the irreplaceable old growth forest, a whole mountain will be removed and a deep pit left behind; this seems much like the “mountain top removal” coal mining being practiced in Appalachia with lethal results
  • the local villagers will be left with poisoned land, with toxic mine wastes piled up or, if in liquid form, held in ponds built with piled up dirt, subject to failure
  • the riverways and the area will consequently be impacted, imperiling local water supplies, for humans and other animals
  • local animals, some of holdovers from before the ice age and found nowhere else, may go extinct
  • unknown long term cleanup issues will no doubt arise
  • people’s health will be impacted much as in Appalachia, USA or Bhopal, India

But of course, a few dozen of the local folk will have jobs for the next two decades, but nowhere worth living after that. And, I should be fair, about $300 million (in today’s dollars) will accrue to the RoA, that’s about 1.5% of the total value of the ore. Take that, couple it with the value of the employment I just mentioned, and related economic activity, and you’ll probably get about 2% of the total value of the ore, meaning 98% is going to… who knows where. The ownership of 82% of the company doing the mining is being kept secret. What are they afraid of? Who needs Azeri snipers killing border patrols when we’ve got these kinds of unscrupulous companies exploiting the country’s natural wealth and the people’s desperation for work?

In case you didn’t notice, there’s that 98 cents I started out with.

If righteous indignation burns within you now, be proud of it. Act on it. Whether on Facebook or other websites, start making your voice heard. There may soon be petitions and other actions over this reprehensible arrangement, join in. Let the authorities in Yerevan and their representatives know how despicable you think this is. Attend rallies and seminars. Let’s help our compatriots living in the deadly shadow of this operation. There are cleaner, better, more publicly beneficial ways of extracting the wealth of the land, be it metal ores, stones, or anything else.

Oh, and this isn’t the only obscene mining operation in the Republic of Armenia…


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  1. Jason said:

    ‘Frontline’ has a new documentary about a huge open pit copper & gold mine being proposed in the United States – may be of interest to readers of this article. The mine would create the largest tailing dump in the world to hold billions of tons of toxic waste.

    Issues at stake include the loss of local livelihoods, destruction of pristine wildlife habitat & siting a tailing dump in an earthquake zone. Here’s a link to the ‘Alaska Gold’ documentary & related resources:

  2. ani said:

    Thank you, Garen. Please send this to our corrupt government and other places, and let them know that they are going to be responsible for everything. What a shame! Do we really need to complain everyday about an issue or the problem? What kind of government is this that people are on the street almost everyday? These people are trouble making, nothing else!

  3. Maro Matosian said:

    Thank you Garen. This article went viral on FB in Armenia.

  4. Armenian said:

    Holy crap!

    This is disgusting… the government of Armenia sells its people’s lives for so cheap.
    Anyone have links to Armenian governmental web sites or numbers to call people?

    Having a strong title like “Horrible Toxic Threat to Armenians” would really catch people’s attention on this issue.

  5. robig said:

    I read somewhere that the mining companies are Russian. Can anyone verify this?