Yesterday, Armenia’s Greens Union President Hakob Sanasaryan led a group of environmentalists on a visit to the town of Akhtala to inspect the Shamlough open pit mine operated by Metals Prince Ltd.
They wanted to see for themselves the state of the company’s tailings dams, the production process and the working conditions for the mine staff.
When they approached the mine, they were met by Armen Naghdalyan, who manages the plant and a group of security staffers. Naghdalyan demanded that the environmentalists immediately leave the site.
The group, in turn, demanded that Naghdalyan produce a document proving that the land they were on indeed belonged to the mine.
Naghdalyan responded that the environmentalists should have stopped off at the plant office first. He said that had they done so the company would have provided an excort to take them anywhere they wanted to go.
Sanasaryan told Hetq that he had gotten in touch with Metals Prince Director Madeline Tashjian prior to the trip and that Tashjian had told him to wait after the May 9 holidays.
“Afterwards, she changed her story and asked for a meeting. She wanted to know the purpose of our visit and based on what right did we plan to visit Akhtala. She should think before making such ridiculous demands,” said Sanasaryan.
Throughout their visit, company security staff followed the environmentalists by jeep and hindered their movements. Sanasaryan labelled these attempts as a human rights violation and noted that had it been in another country the mining company would be fined for such behaviour.
Sanasaryan said that the Shamlough mine appears on a map of uranium mines in Armenia.
“I’m not saying that there’s an uranium mine there, but it appears on the map. He said that the purpose of his visit was to find out if there were any uranium traces in the area.
The Green Union president expressed his concerns over the continuing pollution of the Akhtala River with tailings wastes and noted the dangers that the Tchotchkan tailings dam present to the nearby communities of Metz Ayroum and Tchotchkan.
Commenting on the overall environmental situation in Akhtala, Sanasaryan said that while it couldn’t be compared to that of Kapan and Syunik, which he described as “dead zones”, if Metal Prince continues to operate in the same manner Akhtala could also become a dead zone in five years.