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Larisa Paremuzyan

They’ve also Buried Chemical Waste in the Alaverdi “Arsenic Graveyard”

The arsenic graveyard of the Alaverdi Mining and Metallurgical Plant, a legacy of the Soviet era, is located on the edges of the road leading to the town’s “Len-Hanker” neighborhood, a mere one kilometer from the district. The Alaverdi-based Armenian Copper Programme (ACP) company has not used the cemetery (or dump)

since it began operations until quite recently. The site is presently in an absolute state of neglect. Whereas, according to information supplied by area residents, a month ago iron and kapron (a type of synthetic fiber) sealed drums were brought to the site by dump trucks. Residents claim the drums were buried in the dump and witnessed how bulldozers filled the drums over with dirt. It turns out there were chemical products in the sealed drums. We learnt from Nikolai Feofanov, the ACP’s Director of Production, that the drums contained products from the firm’s copper smelter that no longer had any production value. As to what the chemicals were and whether the ACP had the right to bury the drums in the Alaverdi cemetery, we will ascertain in the future. The burial site isn’t fenced off. Neighborhood livestock as well as people come and go freely.

There are no signs warning of the area’s inherent danger. In parts of the burial site there are ripped sacks containing arsenic waste scattered about while large crevices and cracks are to be seen in several areas. Shurik and Laura Kirakosyan, who live close to the site, stated, “It’s possible that people dug there or that the crevices were made by animals digging. A few years ago you would have seen a lot of people on the site. People came from all regions of Armenia came here by car to take away the tailings. They were under the impression that the tailings buried here contained gold and they took the stuff away in sacks to look for gold. They even disassembled the reinforcements of the cement wall enclosures and carted them off.” Shurik Kirakosyan related a comical story about the dangerous waste site. “Sweethearts also come here by car to make out, etc. Yesterday, around lunchtime, a care wanted to enter the site but saw that I was going in so he backed slowly out. I said to myself, I shouldn’t get within eyesight; it might be somebody I know, so I returned. If you look closely you’ll find wine and vodka bottles there. You can’t even walk around the place, the smell of arsenic is overpowering.

How do those people go there without getting sick to their stomachs?” Shurik asked in amazement. Regarding the matter of fencing off the site and posting warning signs, Nikolai Feofanov stated that, “Years ago the burial site had been surrounded by a fence but that it had been stolen.” Mr. Feofanov also informed us that the waste site was the property of Manes Ltd. and promised to assign the firm the task of erecting a fence a warning signs.