The picturesque spa town of Djermouk in Armenia is one of the favorite vacationing spots for both locals and foreign tourists.
With many resorts, mineral water sources known for their healing qualities, and beautiful nature surrounding the town, this is one of the key tourist regions of Armenia. The region is also known to have gold deposits. And plans to mine them are underway.
So how will a nearby mine affect tourism in Djermouk?
We surveyed a number of people vacationing in Djermouk to gauge their opinion on the nearby Amulsar gold mine and whether they would return to Djermouk when the mining starts.
Of the 20 Armenian citizens surveyed, 18 were not even aware of the planned mining operations at Amulsar. After learning about the mine, 15 of the surveyed tourists said they would continue visiting Djermouk, since they didn’t believe that the proximity of the mine would have a significant negative impact on their health during the typical 7-10 days vacation.
We asked the same question to 13 foreign tourists, mostly from former Soviet Union countries. Nine stated that after the start of full mining operations they would not return to Djermouk, and four were undecided.
The ongoing work at Amulsar is completely visible to all Djermouk residents. Amulsar territory and the new roads to it are in plain view from the Mineral Water Gallery, the central portion of the Djermouk Spa.
The proximity of the mine is a source of concern not only for tourists, but for resort managers as well. In fact, most of them oppose it. Their main concerns are the impact of the mine operations on the number of tourists and the many environmental problems it will cause.
Tigran Margaryan, the Executive Manager of Olympia Resort, tells us that he is convinced that the exploitation of the Amulsar Mine will definetly have consequences for the town of Djermouk and the development of tourism there. He believes that mining operations will impact the environment and the health and well-being of the community. It will aslo affect Djermouk’s reputation and the number of people choosing to spend their vacations there.
“The first negative impact will be the appearance of excessive dust in the town. Despite the mine operators’ insistence that the dust from the mine will not travel far and will not be a problem, we have already noticed an increased accumulation of dust,” says Tigran Margaryan.
He says that geological research is underway and full mining operations will start later in the year.
Margaryan has other serious concerns as well. He is worried that the underground explosions will affect mineral water sources and the purity and mineral composition of the water.
“Mining operations create a danger of elevated uranium background radiation levels. Unfortunately, no measurements are being done to establish current radiation levels. Therefore, it will be impossible to determine whether the radiation levels have increased or remained unchanged in the future,” says the resort manager.
Margaryan, however, admits that mining operations may have some positive effects on the local economy. It will definitely create jobs, some of them high paying, which will keep local residents from seeking employment elsewhere. It will also attract investment, but unfortunately not in the tourism industry or environment.
When asked if it would be possible to stop mining operations after large investments were made should the mine prove to have detrimental effects to the Djermouk region, Margaryan said that only the government could solve such a problem.
“It all depends on how the government will view this issue. In other words, are the people and the environment more important than the investments and revenues that fill up the government’s budget? Pros and cons will have to be weighed. Armenia is not such a wealthy country to be able to lightly reject large projects like Amulsar and obtain its revenues from other sources,” says Tigran Margaryan.
Translated by Alex Klyuev