Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Government ignores concerns about Teghut mine…

Armenia Copper Programme, a division of the Vallex Group registered offshore in Liechtenstein, has begun operating a controversial mining project in the village of Teghut. Preliminary work began with the clearing of a portion of the pristine Teghut Forest to create a massive tailing dump for toxic waste left after mineral processing. The company is aggressively removing a mountain in order to reach underground deposits of copper and molybdenum.

Teghut photo by Sara Anjargolian, 2012

Armenia has made mining a key part of its economic development strategy [see page 34] despite environmental, economic, and social concerns. There are more than 400 active mines and 19 tailing dumps in Armenia, a small country the size of Maryland. Scientists have reported health risks in communities around mines scattered throughout Armenia. Human rights and environmental activists have also protested violations of property rights and the loss of rare and endangered ecosystems and biodiversity.

A coalition of 14 organizations including Armenia Tree Project and Armenian Environmental Network sent a letter to the President and Prime Minister, requesting an independent Environmental Impact Assessment for the mine.

“Cases brought in opposition to the operations in Armenian courts have been cursorily and improperly dismissed on strictly procedural bases without proper examination as to the substance of the claims. The Environmental Impact Assessment and public notice requirements are fatally flawed. The irreparable damage already done to Teghut, and the yet greater damage that will be done to the region if mining continues, demand immediate attention,” reads the letter.

The letter requests the EIA in order to comply with domestic and international laws, present an accurate analysis of the environmental impact, address the public health impacts of the Teghut mining operations, take alternative development options into consideration, and restore public faith and trust in government.

The coalition received a response from Edgar Pirumyan, Ministry of Nature Protection Chief of Staff, who said an EIA was completed within the scope of the law.

“We are disappointed with the perfunctory response through the Ministry of Nature Protection whose primary mission is the protection of Armenia’s environment,” notes ATP’s managing director Tom Garabedian. “In a recent visit to California, the Prime Minister expressed his commitment to Armenia’s environment. We hope that there is a willingness of the government to reexamine Teghut and mining in Armenia as a whole.”

The letter was co-signed by Acopian Center for the Environment, Armenian American Health Professionals Organization, Armenian American Medical Association, Armenian American Nurses Association, Armenian American Pharmacists Association, Armenian Bar Association, Armenian International Dental Association, Armenian Medical International Committee, Axis of Justice (Serj Tankian), Civic Forum, haikProject, and World Wide Fund for Nature.