Early this morning, residents of the villages of Shnogh and Teghout blockaded the road leading to the offices of Teghout Ltd.
Residents were protesting the fact that the mining company had installed barricades on a road leading to a local shrine and to the forest beyond, us preventing them from picking wild mushrooms and berries.
Traffic was halted for several hours and buses bringing in workers from Alaverdi and surrounding villages parked on the shoulders until the protestors reluctantly opened the roadway.
Teghout Mayor Frounze Norekyan stated that the village council has discussed the issue and that Rouben Papoyan, a Teghout official present at the meeting, had promised that villagers would have free access to the forest and the shrine.
Villagers, however, say that the mining company’s security staffers are still preventing them from moving freely about. They also claim that they must first receive permission from the company before cutting any wild grasses later used for livestock feed.
In an attempt to diffuse the situation, Lori Provincial Governor Artour Nalbandyan and Lori Police Chief Anoubakh Hambaryan arrived on the scene at noon.
They listened to the complaints of the villagers and later discussed the matter with Teghout Ltd. Director Valery Mezhloumyan who remained in his office the entire time.
Afterwards, Nalbandyan told the protestors that while the barricades to the forest and the shrine wouldn’t be removed, villagers would have free access to both.
The company argues that the barricades were installed to safeguard company equipment and to prevent the access of unauthorized individuals.
Even though Police Chief Hambaryan assured villagers that they could freely go to the shrine whenever they wanted, to pray and light candles, local residents didn’t seem convinced.
“What we want is to be able to go to our mountain and forest whenever we want,” said local resident Karen.
“Dear Karen, no one is restricting your free movement, but there are safety rules. You can go to your places. That’s not a problem,” Hambaryan responded.
Teghout officials say they are ready to sit down with local residents on a weekly basis to resolve these and other issues.
At 1:30pm, the protestors grudgingly opened the road leading to the Teghout Ltd. offices.