Amulsar, It Keeps Getting Worse

Garen Yegparian
Garen Yegparian

Garen Yegparian

BY GAREN YEGPARIAN

If you’ve been following Armenian news at all, you’re aware that the proposed gold mine at Amulsar (which interestingly, coincidentally, translates to “Impotent Mountain” – you’ll see why below) is a very hot issue in the Republic of Armenia.

The local population has barricaded roads and prevented progress on the mine for a year or so. Lydian, the company proposing to exploit the gold deposits there claims it’s safe to proceed with their operation. However, a report recently released has found countless flaws in the environmental impact documents prepared by Lydian. But since then, Prime Minister Pashinyan has stated that there are no legal grounds to block this mining operation. A lot of people are very angry because of what the “side effects” of this mine can cause.

Armenia’s famous Jermouk mineral water is threatened since the source is nearby the mine. There are the usual dust, tailings (leftover rock and sludge that are commonly toxic), and biological impacts (plant and animal life damaged). Plus, there’s the disruption of human activity in the region because of the short, decades-long, productive life of a mine relative to the hundreds if not thousands of years-long aftereffects of the mining operation.

Up to now, the biggest known risk was to Lake Sevan, the heart of the RoA. In about 130 years acidified waters originating from and caused by this mining operation will reach the lake and very possibly cause serious harm to it. All this is just review, old news.

Now, it turns out that the whole area may be subject to radioactive exposure!

This was reported by Nane Avagyan last week in the Armenian language edition of Asbarez. Her “Experts Insist Amulsar’s Exploitation Be Prohibited Because of the Presence of Large Quantities of Uranium” presents the information revealed at a September 18 program organized by Abril Bookstore in Glendale titled “Amulsar: What’s Next” with speakers Dr. Gagik Melikian and Harout Bronozian.

Melikian cited a Soviet era report of findings from exploration done in 1952-54 and classified as top secret at the time. He said they had discovered 100 tonnes of uranium at Amulsar, along with radium and thorium. The latter two are definitely radioactive and uranium can also be, depending on which isotope is present. These elements are radioactive because they decay, that is the atom’s nucleus breaks down naturally, and emit alpha particles (helium nuclei) which can cause cancers of various types. In addition, arsenic, lead, and mercury are found in the ground at Amulsar, which are toxic to humans in their own right.

This Soviet era document should be republished in Armenian and English (I am assuming it exists in Russian) to confirm the radioactivity data. Once confirmed, the RoA government would have no more excuses, the Lydian mining operation would have to be shut down since any and every government is charged with attending to the wellbeing of it people. Clearly, exposing any population to radioactivity in their homes cannot be described as seeing to their wellbeing.

It’s unfortunate that no one had signs calling on Prime Minister Pashinyan to shut down the mine when he visited Los Angeles and spoke to a crowd of many thousands gathered in Grand Park. But now, Armenians worldwide should be calling on him to do the right thing and terminate the travesty that is the Amulsar mine.

Contact your nearest RoA government representative and let her/him know that you don’t want our homeland and its people poisoned so some profiteers can make millions off what I’ll call “blood gold” (like blood diamonds and blood chocolate from Africa).

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5 Comments

  1. Gurgen2 said:

    Thank you Garen for keeping this imprtant issue in the spotlight. I have no doubt that Pashinyan is intentionally delaying dealing with this issue in the hope that by next year the resistance to the mine will run out of steam and he’ll have his man in the constitutional court to bulldoze the issue forward. The fact that none of the Armenians in LA seriously brought this to the attention of Pashinyan speaks volumes about the education and overall political and national awareness of our people.

  2. ardachece barseghian said:

    With the implosion of the Soviet system, peoples who have suffered 80 years of Moscow centralism, pretending to know only to re-determine the problems of homo-sovieticus reduced to having to drink and eat … prohibited from all decisions, it was obvious that this citizen should call the support of his diaspora. The new leaders, neo crypto communists, took over the reins of the country, chasing any political opposition with its diaspora, and inevitably fell back into the pit, offering all strategic sectors to the former colonizers, contracting the agreement of a military base in Armenia for 44 years our country has been maintained for 30 years in a state of institutional underdevelopment with the pretention of all knowledge on its own rather than exploiting its true mine is “its diaspora”. The proof, your article is by analyses that show the absolute necessity, vital at the national level to immediately cease this mining operation. I conclude, in my opinion, that it is imperative and finally necessary to create a diasporic federative structure with its unlimited capabilities that is officially involved in all sectors of the country which must be that of all Armenians, at the economic level, social, cultural, political, civil. Your arguments, from the diaspora, are scientifically, historically explicit, for us to avoid disaster. This pretention has believed itself capable of reuniting, alone, the innumerable difficulties that are imposed on all of us, after the Sovietization, 30 years of tyrant autocracy. The mentalities of society remain almost identical in a dangerous immobility with the refusal or rejection of a political will to integrate the various diasporic forces. Under reserve, my point of view, diasporic citizen settles and active in the country for 28 years.

  3. Leilani Doty, PhD said:

    Thx for continuing to bring up this mining travesty. Amulsar gold today leads to far reaching toxicities tomorrow. If Pashinyan cares about safe air, water, soil, vegetation, people, animals……in southern and central Hyastan, he will honor the urgent messages of the brave researchers and blockaders who insist that the mining of Amulsar stop.

  4. Ken Martin said:

    So did Lydian report the presence of radio active elements and if not shouldn’t that nullify the contracts with the government?

  5. Edward Demiraiakian said:

    You all missed the Elephant in the Room. Uranium, Thorium, these are valuable resources. Perhaps more valuable than Gold. As to the California Armenians not objecting; In the US, those issues were resolved decades ago. There are safe ways to mine gold , but it costs more. So companies like Lydian chooses to mine in less developed countries, because of the lack of environmental regulations.
    No open air Cyanide heap leaching should be allowed. The whole process has to be encapsulated, and the Cyanide has to be rendered inert before disposing. So, the country cannot afford to start any serious mining activities until it establishes respected cadres of inspectors, trained in the West, paid well, with powers to shut down operations and issuance of major fines. That is how it is done inn the USA.

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