Communities Concerned over Radiation near Uranium Mines

The Armenian town of Vayk, near which the Azatek mine is located


BY KARINA MANUKYAN

YEREVAN (ArmInfo.am)—The development of uranium ore-containing mines in Armenia is fraught with big environmental problems, Inga Zarafyan, Head of EcoLur, an environmental advocacy group, has told ArmInfo. Zarafyan says some legislative amendments in the country have enabled mining companies to gain profits even from deposits that were regarded as unprofitable before.

Uranium extraction operations may have a potential health impact on the local communities, the environmentalist says. Zarafyan warns about the high level of radon at the areas near the deposits that have been operated for a long period of time already. Operation of all these deposits is accompanied by dangerous emissions of radioactive waste, she explains.

Earlier in October, environmentalists warned about the exploration of the Azatek deposit located in Vayots Dzor region, which, as they claimed, contains uranium. According to EcoLur, expeditions in the 1960s and 1970s also indicated the presence uranium ore in the area.

Meanwhile, Zarafyan complained about the lack of official data on the risks of operation on radioactive deposits. “No one cares for the issue, unfortunately. Mining companies are silent, as it is not within their interests to speak of the risks. As for the Government, its silence is in favor of some officials who back those companies,” Zarafyan said.

Meanwhile, the situation has been exacerbated. A few years ago an Armenian-Russian Mining Company conducted uranium exploration in Armenia. Rosatom provided 3 million euros to that end. It was reported earlier that uranium reserves in Armenia could reach 30-40 thousand tons. However, geological exploration of the uranium deposits brought no positive results.

Recently, the State Nuclear Safety Regulatory Committee measured radiation levels in the environment in the area of the Azatek mine and in the town of Vayk and the nearby Azatek community, at the request of EcoLur and residents of the community. The commission reported no significant difference in background radiation levels from the national average.

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