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Kristine Aghalaryan

Vayk Residents Protest: "No Mining In Our Backyard"

Residents of Vayk, a community in Armenia’s Vayots Dzor province, gathered outside the town’s municipal office today to voice their opposition to an open pit mine planned in their backyard.

They blocked officials from a company called VaykGold from entering the municipal building and staging a public hearing on the preliminary environmental impact assessment drafted by the company.

VaykGold wants to mine for gold and other metals at the Azatek site, with lies within the administrative boundaries of Vayk and the neighboring community of Zaritap.

The demonstrators launched a petition drive calling on the Vayk municipal council to oppose all mining in the area.

Vayk Municipal Staff Secretary Gagik Mushkambaryan told Hetq that no public hearing was held and that it was officially recorded that the community was against the exploitation of Azatek mine.

While Mushkambaryan claimed that the company had filed for a three-month exploratory license, it is clear from the announcement on today’s public hearing that what was scheduled to be discussed was plans to operate the mine and not any exploratory work.

It should be noted that Armenia’s Environmental and Soil Inspectorate carried out inspections and found that Vayk Gold had extracted 1,330 tons of ore in December 2017 where the amount of metals was 11.31 kg gold, 84.5 kg silver and 5.25 tons of copper.

However, the extracted ore was not recorded in the company reports submitted to the authorized body. In addition, the company did not have an EIA report.

Several other violations were also unearthed. Therefore, the inspection body, headed by former head Arthur Grigoryan, decided to ban any mining. The Inspectorate also addressed a letter to the Ministry of Energy Infrastructure and Natural Resources requesting the cessation of mining.

The ministry, however, failed to do so

The Prosecutor General’s Office launched a criminal case into the matter and the Investigative Committee was instructed to investigate the matter.

In April of this year, Investigative Committee spokesperson Naira Harutyunyan told Hetq that the case is still under investigation. Complex ecological, construction, technical and commodity expert studies were ordered, and the results are still pending.

VaykGold LLC was founded by former Minister of Nature Protection Vardan Ayvazyan. On July 9, 2019, 80% of the company’s share was transferred to Goldfields Ltd, registered in London. The remaining 20 percent remains in the hands of Norayr Zohrabyan, registered in Charentsavan.

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