Polluted Water, Toxic Food, Sick Residents: Consequences of Mining in Armenia

Polluted Water, Toxic Food, Sick Residents: Consequences of Mining in Armenia


On 29 January a discussion was held at Media Center entitled 'Environmental Disaster in Lori: Consequences of Akhtala Ore Processing Combine'. The focus of the discussion was mining and particularly the activities of 'Akhtala OPC' CJSC.

The presenters of the discussion were Expert Victoria Burnazyan, Chief Editor of www.ecolur.org, Marzpet Qamalyan – Advisor to Head of Nature Protection and Soil Inspection Body of RA Nature Protection Ministry, Arthur Grigoryan  - representative of 'EcoRight' NGO and Gevorg Gorgisyan, MP from 'Yelq' faction.

'We have started examining this matter since 2008-2009. At that time Nahatak tailing dump was still not reconstructed and re-operated, it was open with all its negative consequences on the environment. The local communities have always beaten an alarm signal on the hazards of the tailing dump. There is stink everywhere, animals fall into the tailing dump, the harvest is polluted with heavy metals and the most important thing is that residents have serious health problems. Nahatak tailing dump will be reclaimed in 2018-2019. Our observations show that the previous tailing dumps reclaimed by the company were not efficient and the ground layer is so thin that the tails are visible on the surface. All these tails are washed away together with the rainwater and flow down and in case of Nazik Tailing Dump Akhtala river turns into a tailpipe. Whole that area is a dead zone,' Expert Victoria Burnazyan, Chief Editor of www.ecolur.org, presented the situation.

Marzpet Qamalyan – Advisor to Head of Nature Protection and Soil Inspection Body of RA Nature Protection Ministry, said, 'There was an accident and the company's tail pipeline leaked and the tails flowed into the school area and polluted 150 sq.m. We assigned the company and it immediately recovered the area. We have started our proceedings and now they are in progress. We will have the results of the progress in 10 days. If there are violations, we will definitely impose fines.'

Gevorg Gorgisyan, MP from 'Yelq' faction, presented what he had recently eye witnessed in the area of Nahatak tailing dump. 'The tailing dump is full and water is directly let out from there, which flows into the Debed River. We may even experience an international problem here. The fauna is eliminated in this section if the residents used to fish, now there is no fish, there were dead crawfish on the river banks. The residents claim it's over a year they have been experiencing the same situation, people have an orchard of  30 ha through which a brooklet flows which is used for irrigation and the shuffle was all in that brooklet.'

Arthur Grigoryan, the representative of 'EcoRight' NGO, is sure that tailing dumps and the heavy metals they contain are have turned into a matter of national security. 'The most serious problem is that the tailing dumps generate health problems and not only for the population of the local community. These toxix metals come to reach all of us through food chain. When there is an accident, negligent sums of money are imposed as fines. It's more profitable for the company to pay all these fines than to take different measures to eliminate the consequences of the accident.' Referring to the role of mining in economy Arthur Grigoryan said, 'The contribution of the mining in the GDP has been 2.5% and over 8000 working places have been created in this field. Maybe the incomes in this sector are higher several times and it's important for certain people to have the existence of mining in this manner, but when you look at the official numbers, mining doesn't have a bog role in the economy and labour market.'

''Our company mentions that it creates favourable conditions for the investors to come and develop mining, but there are no clear estimated what the economic damage s=is after the operation of  mining companies. If you have polluted, you don't have water, any opportunity to deal with agriculture, instead you have poisoned food and sich residents... In this case, what are expectations for future?' Victoria Burnazyan said.

16:45 January 30, 2018


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