Sotk Residents Block Highway: Gold Mine Blasts Creating Toxic Cloud
Residents of the Gegharkunik village of Sotk temporarily blockaded the Vardenis-Artsakh roadway this morning to protest the blasting carried out by GeoProMining at the Sotk gold mine and what they describe as the resulting toxic cloud of dust.
Sotk residents told Hetq that they often see a brown cloud rising from the mine area, which spreads over the village.
They opened the road after company management promised to meet with them and hear their demands.
During the blasts at the open mine, explosives with a mixture of ammonia and saltpeter are absorbed into the groundwater, which the company pumps into a tributary of the Metz Masrik river that later flows into Lake Sevan.
Sotk has been incorporated into Geghamasar community. Hetq attempted to contact Hakob Avetyan, the Geghamasar mayor, but his telephone numbers aren’t available.
GeoProMining Gold LLC, which operates Sotk, the largest gold mine in Armenia, is in the hands of Russian owners. The real shareholder is Russian citizen Siman Povarenkin.
He has a 50.3% stake in the company, which he acquired in September 2010. Siman Povarenkin was a business partner of former Russian Energy Minister Sergei Generalov, and the press describe him as close to the Russian government. He is also known as the owner of the "Chocolate" cafe chain.
The second largest shareholder is another Russian tycoon, Roman Trotsenko. He has a 48.2% stake in the company, which he acquired in March 2019.
Since 2012, Trotsenko has been an adviser to Igor Sechin, CEO of the Russian state-controlled energy company Rosneft.
He then headed Rosneft Overseas, a subsidiary of Rosneft, which managed the company's foreign assets. Before coming to Rosneft, he headed the Russian state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation.
Photos by Sevak Khachatryan