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).