Wednesday, 26 September

Who Can Save Tatev From Greedy Mining Interests?

Don't Look to Parliament for Solutions!

The above is a question that arises when the institutions of the government don't work. All government structures in Armenia have just one thing on their mind – how to embezzle state funds.

Officials working in these state institutions are only interested in one thing – how to advance their private businesses through the abuse of their office.

In January of this year, Fortune Oil, a Chinese company, purchased three mines in Armenia on the London stock exchange. The mines are located in Hrazdan, Abovyan, and in the village of Svarants, a few kilometers from the Tatev monastery complex.

Aside from a few reports in the Armenian press, not one Armenian government agency mentioned the sale.

To get more information, we went to the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources. Officials there told us they had no such news. The Ministry of Energy gave us the same answer.

You would think these two ministries would have been apprised of the sale beforehand – it falls within their direct jurisdiction.

Strange as it may sound, two National Assembly MP's were behind the sale – Vardan Avazyan and Tigran Arzakantsyan.

Vardan Ayvazyan, chairs the National Assembly's Standing Committee on Economic Affairs, and is a member of the ruling Republican Party. He's presently engaged in lobbying for a new law regarding the country's natural resources.

Practically all transactions of this magnitude pass through the halls of parliament, since the nation's economic power is centralized in the hands of the MP's.

Armenia's parliament resembles a stock exchange, or commercial trading floor, than a legislative body. In the recently renovated parliament chamber sit importers of foodstuffs, medicines, cosmetics and clothes, alongside the owners of gas stations, banks, mines, supermarkets, restaurants and hydro-electric power stations. In a word – a cozy assemblage of profit-motivated individuals.

Every day, commercial transactions are hammered out there. MP's haggle over price and conditions. The time has long since passed when the National Assembly should be renamed the "National Stock Exchange".

After selling the mines to the Chinese, MP Ayvazyan pulled all available strings to introduce the company's reps to Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan.

I am told that when the meeting took place, PM Sargsyan wasn't yet aware that one of the mines, the Svarants iron mine, is right next door to Tatev.

In any event, this point didn't come up during the meeting, meaning that PM Sargsyan had given his tacit approval to the Chinese investment project.

Let's remember that the Prime Minister had been going around boasting about the Tatev Revival project. The government even went so far to spend money on ads touting Tatev that wound up being aired on CNN.

Now, with the Chinese operating a mine just a stone's throw away, the allure of Tatev will definitely suffer. Rest assured that the government won't be running TV spots advertising the fact the hundreds of Chinese will be descending on Tatev to operate an iron mine.

Is it possible to put a halt to the plans of the Prime Minister and MP Ayvazyan regarding the Chinese mine in Svarants?

Of course it's possible.

All it takes is a phone call to strip Spice Steel Armenia of its exploratory license for Svarants. (According to the Ministry of Energy the Svarants mine belongs to Spice Steel.)

Spice Steel is owned by MP Ayvazyan's son, Souren, and MP Tigran Arzakantsyan. They won't suffer any loss as a result. The two MP's have already pocketed $24 million from the sale of the three mines to the Chinese. And we're talking cash on the barrel.

They now have to return about $8 million. They just might go to court if the authorities force the issue.

In that case, the two have to be stripped of the exploratory and operating mine licenses they obtained when Vardan Ayvazyan served as the Minister of Nature Protection.

MP Ayvazyan also is a member of the ruling Republican Party's Council. This means he is close to President Serzh Sargsyan.

This factor is the main stumbling block to saving Tatev.

Thus, on one side of the scale you have MP's Ayvazyan and Arzakantsyan. On the other is Tatev.

Is there any doubt as to which side pulls more weight?

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Comments (2)
1. Emil19:16 - 2 May, 2011
Wait let's see, are not mines national? how come they are being sold by individuals? Do this people own all there is in Armenia? including the poor souls?...Wow wait a sad is the situation of Armenia.... poor country...... being torn by greedy wolves.
2. arthur01:19 - 9 May, 2011
the guy with red ti was the minister of ecolgy in armenia. He took all the mines and now he sells it to consolidate his fortune.
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