If It’s Broke, Don’t Fix It

The confluence: clean water, dirty water

BY GAREN YEGPARIAN

Of course the old saw actually goes “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But in the topsy-turvy world that seems to be the Republic of Armenia (RoA), the way I have this article titled seems to be the way things are done. How else would you explain what one sees on YouTube in this video?

The situation is this. There’s a mining operation run by Ler-Ex near a watercourse, the Geghee stream. Naturally, there’s a tailings pile (“tailings” is the term for the waste, non-metal-bearing earth that is left over from a mining operation). This pile of waste seems to have been accumulated in what used to be the Geghee’s streambed. Wisely, the miners seem to have shunted the stream aside through a pipe to have its water circumvent the often toxic pile of tailings (though whether this was done legally, with government authorization is unknown at this point). So far, so good.

The Geghee’s course is such that it and the Voghjee stream join. At this confluence, we’re treated to a disturbing sight. Voghjee’s waters look normal colored, perhaps a bit turbid because the turbulent water is churning up silt (see picture). In contrast, Geghee’s waters look opaque and are a disgusting-looking milky brown-yellow? How could that be? These streams are draining adjoining canyons.

One of the pipes breaks

It turns out there’s been an accident of some sort around the mine. The pipe shunting Geghee’s water is broken in at least four places that activists were able to document in the video above (see pictures). Of course, no one seems to be addressing the problem, leaving any observer to wonder if this wasn’t intended to be a cover-up. What’s happening is that part of Geghee’s water is now finding its way back to its original course, right into the tailings dump (see picture)! This water then percolates into that waste. But it also has to escape somewhere, right? Well, guess what, there’s a pipe sticking out the lower end of the tailings pile. Out of that pipe is flowing the now filthy water that has an awful stench. This pipe appears to be made of steel. “So what, of course it is!” you’re probably thinking. And you’re right. Except… The pipe shunting the stream is some flimsy, light blue colored plastic construct! No wonder it broke! This is not the thick PVC pipe you may have seen being put in the ground in a new housing development in the U.S.

The soaked tailings pile

This is what “mining” seems to look like in the RoA. This kind of rapacious, reckless, “who-cares” approach to what might otherwise be an important component of the economy is unacceptable in any country. It will ultimately lead to a severe backlash as people start to feel the adverse impacts on their health, ability to earn a living, and environment.

From the Diaspora, we must help tame this monster. The first step is, of course, building awareness of this problem. Then we must support the activists on the streets, the lawyers in the courtrooms, and the legislators in the RoA parliament who are striving to remedy this self-inflicted wound. Please follow the news to keep up with developments about, and participate in a walkathon, scheduled for September 22, that aims to raise awareness and funds. It is being organized by Green Armenia, a group of concerned Armenians.

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4 Comments

  1. GB said:

    Pocket full Oligarchs have no shame, just like their communist era predecessor comrades, where rubbing and killing ordinary Armenian people was a common practice!!

  2. edward demian said:

    As a mine engineer, I have experienced many environmentally sensitive projects. In fact, all mine sites are environmentally sensitive to some extent. The pollutants one dumps in one place may very well end up in someone’s drinking water 100 miles away. But mines bring jobs and income to the overall economy. That is why, in the US, “the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has “enforced ” all the regulations on the books, and have had at their disposal some Draconian tools to enforce them. So now, the industry is regulated, safe, and compliant. In fact, old polluted sites have been cleaned up, or are being cleaned up. The problem with young fledgling Armenia is that it has not had time to mature. It needs time to develop the infrastructure of enforcement. Armenia needs a US style “US Forrest Service” as well. The new generations of inspectors should attend booth camp style training sessions with much Ethical and Moral indoctrination in order to eliminate the culture of “graft”. Then, Armenia can develop a safe and sane mining industry, with no degradation to the environment. Reclamation plans are very important. Mines once exhausted of their ores, have to be brought back to its original state of productivity, or better. Rocky inaccessible land can be reclaimed into meadows, pasture land, or wildlife sanctuaries Often time, the land left behind the mining is far more valuable than before. Rocky barren areas with sparse vegetation become Lakes, water irrigation reservoirs, trash collection and gassification plants, or simply provide space for manufacturing, relieving inner city pressures for space, etc. Reforestation plans work out very well because new forests, are healthy forests. The solution is not in limiting mining, but in managing the industry properly for the benefit of all.

    • bigmoustache said:

      I agree with most of what youre saying but Armenia has had 20 + years to mature. our development is stunted because of the corruption in Armenia (a legacy of the soviet union). granted Israel was never cursed with the soviet union but in 20 years it has achieved more than us. Israel is now self sufficient with a brilliant technological industry. it now sells its products to other nations.
      also, its easier to bring nationalized companies to justice if things go wrong. the fact that foreign companies, like Canada, are mining our nation makes things more difficult. aside from the jobs theyre stealing from Armenians, these companies can claim bankruptcy, pack up and disappear. its very very hard for us to bring them to court when theyre based in another country. they can pollute and rape our land, extracting our wealth with no regard for safety because we don’t have the regulations to enforce them to act in a responsible way. regulations and the enforcement cost extra money and for these criminals in power that’s less money in their pockets.
      Armenia is LONG overdue for a revolution. I think its ironic that Azerbaijan prevents that because the impression given by the authorities and in the minds of some Armenians is that if we are distracted, we are weaker from an external threat or attack from Azerbaijan. the fact is corruption is the biggest threat to our national security. it weakens us economically and militarily. it lowers the morale of everyone. it causes Armenians to leave Armenia and further weakens us. it is the new genocide that we face.

  3. pathetic situationian said:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE your comment bigmoustache.

    These corrupt officials should all be lined up next to each other and machine gunned like they do the MS13 gang members in El Salvador. PTOOOOEY! I spit in their faces.

    Corruption IS the new genocide. SHAME on the government and church leaders.

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