Wednesday, 26 September

The Armenian Government is Obligated to Shut Down the Akhtala Mine Enrichment Plant

After taking a look at the accompanying photos the Armenian government must immediately put a halt to the operations of Metal Prince Ltd. in Armenia.

Nailed to the large wall of the Cultural Palace situated in the square of the town of Akhtala in the Lori Marz is a huge banner displaying the pictures of ROA President Serzh Sargsyan and Serop Der-Boghosian, the owner of Metal Prince Ltd. The two are shown wearing mining hard hats.

The Cultural Palace is the property of Serop Der-Boghosian as well. As to why Mr. Der-Boghosian saw the necessity to place his picture on the wall of a building he owns, for all the residents of Akhtala that he employs to see on a daily basis, is anyone’s guess. Whatever the case, when it comes to investing towards solving the environmental issues he faces, it is clear that Mr. Der-Boghosian, who is subjecting the Debed River to an ecological death with  poisonous wastes and is severely threatening the health of local residents and the neighboring agriculture, is, in the words of the local residents of Lori, more than stingy.

\"\"The problem lies in the fact that the tailings dam of the Akhtala Mine Enrichment Plant (AMEP) dating from the Soviet era and located in the “Svints” neighborhood and which is used as the main collection site for the plant’s tailings is small in capacity. The capacity of this dam wasn’t sufficient to handle the poisonous wastes of the plant during Soviet times. For this reason a primary tailings dam was constructed between the villages of Ayrum and Jojkan. Tailings from the factory were pumped to this dam through a series of pipes. After the Alaverdi metallurgical plant was liquidated in the early 1990’s, the pipeline leading to the Ayrum/Jojkan primary tailings dam was disassembled.

Today, the small dam doesn’t have the capacity to handle the needs of AMEP. Rather than restoring a few kilometers of the disassembled pipeline leading to the large dam and which would make it operable, Mr. Der-Boghosian decided to forego these additional expenses. As a result, tailings from the factory are piped directly into the Debed River, a fact which has raised the ire of the residents of the village of Ptghavan. In this regard we weren’t able to receive any explanation from Metal Prince Ltd on August 26th when we visited the site. That afternoon, we were informed by the plant’s security guard, after calling his higher-ups, that, “Mr. Serop isn’t here, he’s gone to Yerevan. There’s nobody from management in the factory to see you.”

\"\"At the same time, as we were taking pictures around the site of the AMEP tailings dam, we received a phone call from the head of plant security requesting that we leave the premises. A few minutes later a “Pajero” vehicle arrived on the scene and an individual who claimed to be the Production Manager got out and proceeded to scream at three deadly pale young plant workers to disperse.

The Production Manager refused to answer our questions stating that he could only do so with the consent of Mr. Der-Boghosian. We should note that in Akhtala we were told that in 2001, when Mr. Serop became the owner of Metal Prince Ltd., he promised residents that he’d invest $10 million during 2002-2003 and $100 million during 2004-2007 in order to create hundreds of new jobs. In fact, no such significant investments have been forthcoming despite the fact that the 2001 price of copper of $1,500 on the London international market has increased by about $7,000 as of today.

The ROA Ministry of Nature Protection carries out periodic inspections in the area and levies fines which do not total more than the price of a few hundred kilos of copper. And Mr. Serob Der-Boghosian is more than happy to pay those fines since it allows him to operate unhindered and thus reap millions of dollars in profit.

This is the pipe that carries poisonous wastes directly into the Debed River.

The Armenian government, after taking a look at these photos, must shut down the operations of this company!

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