Concerned over revelations in the August 15 Hetq article “Metal Prince Mining Dumps Its Waste In Debed River”, Heritage Party MP Anahit Bakhshyan went to see Aram Harutyunyan, Armenia’s Minister of Environment, for some answers.
Armed with research results carried out by the Ministry’s Environmental Inspectorate, Mr. Harutyunyan replied that the photos appearing in the Hetq article had no relation whatever with the tailings dam in Ayrum-Tchotchkan. Rather, he claimed that what was depicted in the photos were water pipes constructed back in 19995 that now are located on Metal Prince property.
The pipes, Minister Harutyunyan said, are used for rain run-off and to remove the company’s water surpluses.
“The waste water in question had no connection to waste water from the manufacturing process,” the minister said in his reply to MP Bakhshyan.
Minister Harutyunyan also wrote that the Environmental Inspectorate tested samples of water from the pipes and found no traces of toxic manufacturing by-products.
Evidently, neither Minister Harutyunyan nor Inspectorate staffers paid close attention when reading the Hetq article or looking at the accompanying photos. Had they done so, they wouldn’t have given the MP such an answer.
Hetq had pointed the finger at Metal Prince for secretly dumping waste by-products of the Akhtala Enrichment Combine directly into the Akhtala River, a tributary of the Debed River. The illegal dumping occurs under the cover of darkness.
This dangerously polluted water is used further downstream to irrigate crops in the villages of Akhtala, Karkop, Shnogh, Tchotchkan and Noyemberyan.
After the minister replied to the MP, Hetq inspected the site again. During our visit, the flows in the pipes from the Combine into the canal (seen in the original article) had been turned off.
There was no rainfall registered in Akhtala on our before August 14, when we originally visited the site and took the photos. Nevertheless, water was flowing down the pipes.
What was flowing through those pipes if, as the minister claims, they are only used for rain removal?
After the original Hetq article, Grisha Davtyan, an advisor to Metal Prince Managing Director Madeline Tashjian, went so far as to say that Combine employees intentionally dumped wastes into the pipe during the Hetq visit.
Akhtala Mayor Hayk Khachikyan says that he’s known about the wastes being dumped in the Akhtala River for quite awhile now.
“Base on what I know, the valve will be opened to allow manufacturing wastes to flow if there is an accident at the plant.”
When Hetq returned to the site on September 4, our sources at the Combine should us the exact site of the piping system leading from the plant to the Ayrum-Tchotchkan tailings dam where, at night, the wastes are diverted into the Akhtala (Ouchkoulisa) River.
There are three sets of pipes with huge valves that empty into the Akhtala.
Our source told us that the valves have to be sealed by the Environmental Inspectorate.
Not only weren’t they properly sealed but were accessible to anyone intent on opening them.
On September 6, Hetq reporters photographed the fields of Sahak Nazaryan in the neighboring village of Metz Ayroum.
We found piles of wastes from the tailings dam.
I wonder what Minister Harutyunyan has to same in response.
After all, he’s the one who claims that sample testing of the river water showed no traces of such toxic wastes.
Maybe the Environmental Inspectorate should check their testing equipment for accuracy…