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Ani Sargsyan

Kristine Aghalaryan

Mining Exacts a High Toll: Yerevan’s Basalt and Clay Mines

The dust swirling in the air above Yerevan often exceeds the maximum allowable concentration (MAC).

According to Armenia’s Statistics Committee, in recent years, the dust in Yerevan has largely exceeded the MAC – dozens, even hundreds of times a year.

As of January 2021, 23 mines have been granted the right to exploit the subsoil in Yerevan’s administrative territory.

Basalt is the most popular ore mined, followed by gypsum-bearing clay. The mines are mainly located in Yerevan’s Sari Tagh, Ajapnyak, Nork, Jrvezh and Vardashen districts.

Dust monitoring is carried out at four observation points in Yerevan, two of which are in the Center, one in Arabkir, and the fourth - in Nor Nork district. There are no monitoring sites in the administrative areas where mines operate.

In Nor Nork, where the monitoring site is relatively close to the mines adjacent to Davit Bek Street, the concentration of dust often exceeds the permissible limit according to this year's analysis by the Hydrometeorology and Monitoring Center.

Hetq wrote to the Ministry of Environment, seeking data on the percentage of total dust emitted by the mining industry in Yerevan. In response, Secretary General of the Ministry of Environment Grigor Gulyan stated that the Hydrometeorology and Monitoring Center SNCO is monitoring dust at four observation points in Yerevan. However, the Ministry does not have information on the estimation of the share of mining in the total amount of dust emissions from stationary sources.

Research has concluded that most of the mines are exploited without observing the minimum rules, and some, as the official sources report, are illegal since they do not have land use contracts or are in forested lands.

For years, mining companies have not signed lease agreements with the community and have not paid any money to the community budget for the use of those lands. There is no proper supervision of the mines in Yerevan.

The mines are not bordered by fences. They lack signs showing the name and data of the subsoil user. Excavation equipment and dust are the only signs suggesting that subsoil extraction is taking place in the area.

Most of the mining companies in Yerevan are companies related to former government officials who easily acquired mining rights and carried out unsupervised extraction.

Yerevan Mines Operated by Former Officials

Spandaryan Basalt Mine

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ML Mining LLC, owned by former Secretary General of the Special Investigation Service (SIA) Davit Sukiasyan, operates the Spandaryan basalt mine.  Sukiasyan started working in the Special Investigation Service in July 2017 as the Chief of Staff. In June 2018, he became the Secretary General of the SIS. He left the SIS in August 2020.

ML Mining is engaged in mining and construction. In December 2020, ML Mining was granted the same subsoil use right granted to Ynderkaber LLC, owned by former Minister of Nature Protection Aram Harutyunyan. Ynderkaber LLC was issued the right in 2012. The company was founded in 2008 by former minister Aram Harutyunyan's brother, Arayik Harutyunyan. Over the years, the owners changed, then 100% of the shares of  Ynderkaber LLC passed to Nairi RMC OJSC, the shareholder of which is Aram Harutyunyan.

Before the change of government in 2018, Harutyunyan's company was implementing projects with state purchases, without any tenders. Moreover, during his years as Kotayk Province Governor, he signed state procurement contracts with his company for the projects implemented within the province.

By a decree of the Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure Suren Papikyan, dated December 29, 2020, the subsoil use right of Ynderkaber LLC was transferred to ML Mining. The decree was preceded by a direct purchase agreement between ML Mining, the bankruptcy manager and Ynderkaber LLC.

Hetq sent a request to Yerevan Mayor Hayk Marutyan to find out with which companies the community has land use agreements.

It turns out that 13 companies carrying out subsoil extraction, including ML Mining, do not have a land use agreement with the community.

ML Mining LLC Director Eduard Margaryan told Hetq that the company received the right to use the subsoil in December last year. They have applied to the municipality, but have not signed a contract yet. When Hetq pointed out that the mine is already in operation, he said that work started in April and “they will have a land use contract soon”.

The company was provided with 24 hectares of land by the subsoil allocation act.

When asked why the company saw the need to start mining in Yerevan, Director Margaryan said that they already have two basalt mines in the provinces, which produce concrete, and when they do not have enough, they have to get it from someone else, and the product is of very low quality. Thus, most of it will be used for their own construction.

“If we operate a nearby mine, the cost will decrease since it won’t have to reach Yerevan by transport. Secondly, if our Voskehat basalt mine does not work due to some technical problems, there is simply no one to get normal quality basalt from," Margaryan said.

Margaryan stated that they are law-abiding taxpayers and borrowers. They started with five employees and now employ 300. He said the company provides housing to public servants in the construction sector and implements big investment programs, uses quality equipment, etc.

In 2017, Dorozhnik LLC received the right to exploit the subsoil of the 3rd basalt section of Spandaryan tuff and basalt mine.

The company has a land use contract for an area of ​​46,749 square meters. Company owner is Ararat Hovhannisyan, registered in Artsakh. Hovhannisyan had been a shareholder in Briquette LLC since 2018, but in March 2020 he transferred the shares to Kamo Aghajanyan. The latter is the former Chief of Police of Artsakh, the director of the National Security Service.

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In December 2020, Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan appointed Hovhannisyan Special Assignment Representative of the President of the Artsakh Republic to the Republic of Armenia. Hovhannisyan is also the director of Arka Hydroelectric Power Station CJSC.։ 

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Shirinshin LLC was issued the right to use subsoil at the Spandaryan basalt mine in June 2020. It will operate the site for twenty years. 99% shares of Shirinshin LLC belong to Mkhitar Shirinyan, registered in Artsakh, and the remaining 1% belongs to Gnel Gasparyan (brother of the former director Tigran Gasparyan). 

Publications and official documents on the activities of the director of Shirinshin and press reports of employee protests reveal that the company has had various problems - salary arrears, accumulation of tax liabilities to the state. Founding director Tigran Gasparyan claimed that Shirinyan, who is close to former Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, took the factory away from him.

Nevertheless, the company continues to operate at the expense of the new owner's investments. The company has signed a land use agreement with the Yerevan Municipality for some 13 hectares of land.

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Yerevan Basalt LLC also has the right to use the subsoil of the Spandaryan basalt mine. The right was issued in 2012 and lasts until 2064. Gohar Baghdasaryan has owned the company since 2015. She’s the mother of company director Khachik Baghdasaryan. Company management claims that it recultivates areas where the production ends. Yerevan Basalt LLC has signed a lease agreement with the Yerevan Municipality for the use of a 43841.33 square meter land plot.

A March 26, 2021 State Revenue Committee decision reveals that the company has unfulfilled tax liabilities in the amount of 12.4 million drams. In this connection, an administrative proceeding has been initiated against the company. In order to ensure the fulfillment of tax obligations, the tax authority may apply a seizure of the company's funds and property.

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Amelia Mining Company CJSC operates Yerevan’s Spandaryan basalt mine. The company received the subsoil use right in 2012. It is valid until 2032. The CJSC has a land use contract. In 2017, the State Subsoil Inspectorate of the Ministry of Energy Infrastructure and Natural Resources (now: Environmental Protection and Mining Inspection Body of the Republic of Armenia) inspected the site, but hasn’t provided any details.

Company Director Karen Simonyan told Hetq that they are exploiting a small mine.

Zodiak Consultants, based in the British Virgin Islands offshore zone, is registered as a shareholder. Simonyan says having a foreign investor is not surprising. The company originally believed that the mined basalt and gravel could sustain a good business venture. Expectations were not met and the mine can hardly survive.

The Judicial Acts Compulsory Enforcement Service twice imposed a ban on the company's accounts given the company’s state tax liabilities.

Illegal Mining in Forested Areas

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Delta Fragment LLC is carrying out illegal mining at the Astghik gypsum-clay-basalt mine near Yerevan’s Davit Bek Street.

Delta Fragment LLC has had two subsoil use permits, one of which was the right to mine the Astghik gypsum-clay-basalt mine that ended in June 2020. The only permit still in force covers the area of ​​the 1st section of the gypsum-bearing rock-basalt site. It’s valid until 2036. The company does not have a land use contract with the Yerevan Municipality, as it operates in forested land.

The Armenian Ministry of Environment, in response to Hetq’s inquiry, stated that the forest use contracts, signed by the Hayantar SNCO of the Forest Committee and the company, were terminated on March 9, 2020, and the lease right of the company was over. However, illegal works in the area previously leased by Delta Fragment LLC continued. Hayantar SNCO sent a warning to the company, demanding it to immediately stop the illegal activities in the area.

Inspection results carried out twice by the Nature Protection and Subsoil Inspection Body did not reflect the fact that Delta Fragment LLC does not have a valid land use contract to operate in the area. Moreover, the category of land had to be changed while mining in the forested area, which was also not done. This wasn’t reflected in these inspections.

The owner and director of Delta Fragment LLC is 61-year-old Nikolay Khachaturov. He also manages Veni Group investment company, founded Côte d'Azur LLC, which is engaged in real estate leasing, as well as Promavtoreal LLC, which is engaged in the purchase and sale of its own real estate, and other companies.

Khachaturov told Hetq that the Astghik gypsum-clay-basalt mine basin used to belong to the Quartz Production Cooperative, from which he "inherited" the forest land lease agreement. However, it was signed in 1997 for a period of ten years. After that, in 2008, Delta Fragment LLC signed a contract with Hayantar for the use of two hectares of forest lands for a period of 17 years. The contract, however, was not notarized, so the lease did not receive state registration.

Clause 3 of the contract, however, clearly stipulates that the lessee has the right and is obliged to use the forest land in accordance with its terms and in accordance with the terms of the contract, as well as not to carry out forest use not provided for in the contract and illegal logging.

Khachaturov claims that they have repeatedly applied for a new contract to rezone the land, but due to lack of coordinates and accurate maps, the process was not carried out.

This company was the focus of public attention in 2010. Tigran Grigoryan, former head of the State Environmental Inspectorate of the Ministry of Nature Protection, and his deputy Arsen Petrosyan, were convicted of demanding and receiving bribes for not registering violations within the company. Apparently, these inspectors did not record these violations in their checklists.

How the Mining Industry "Improved" Forested Land: Mines of Mher Sedrakyan and his Relatives

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In November 2020, the permit of Stoneman LLC to use the subsoil of the Eastern section of the gypsum-bearing clay-basalts of Sari Tagh, which had been granted in 2012, expired. The site is in Yerevan’s Erebuni District, near Davit Bek Street, one kilometer from the TV tower.

There are now large holes in the area with piles of stones and uneven surface. The forested area is on the asset sheet of Hayantar SNCO, a part of the Ministry of Environment.

In 2010, Stoneman LLC rented four hectares of forested area here, two separate but adjacent areas of 3.5 and 0.5 hectares for agricultural use, landscaping and greening. It paid a total of 497,500 drams a year for the leased forested area. Despite the agricultural, landscaping and greening purposes stipulated in the contract, Stoneman LLC has extracted ore in the forested land, without any rezoning.

In response to Hetq’s inquiry, according to the information received from the Yerevan Municipality the company that operated the mine did not rent land from the city of Yerevan. That is, Stoneman mined exclusively in forested land.

In 2009, the company received a positive Environmental Impact Assessment according to which the mine was to operate on an area of ​​4.43 hectares, but, as already mentioned, it leased four hectares. The EIA stated that there is no vegetation in the area, and the positive conclusion was given with a clear expert request: "Before starting the operation of the mine, it is necessary to get a document confirming the ownership of the land." The expert did not refer to the fact that the land is zoned as forested.

Studying Google Earth data, it becomes clear that in 2009, at the time of receiving the EIA, without having a forest land lease agreement or a decision to change the land category, earthworks were carried out in the mine area.

Active mining was carried out in the area until 2018. After the 2018 Velvet Revolution in Armenia, equipment was removed from the area and the road leading to the mine was flooded, closing it.

Years later, Hayantar SNCO tried to terminate the forested land lease agreement in court, since the tenant did not use it for the purpose defined by the agreement.

Hayantar petitioned the court on January 29, 2020, demanding early termination of the forest land lease agreements, signed in 2010, on the grounds of non-preservation of the purpose of the land. The claim was returned because it was incomplete. Hayantar applied to the court again in February. Preliminary hearings have been held for this case so far.

In response to Hetq’s inquiry, the Nature Protection Subsoil Inspectorate carried out inspections at Stoneman LLC in 2017, but, for some reason, did not find that the company was using the land improperly.

The sole owner of Stoneman LLC is Henry Mikayelyan, who, according to Hetq’s sources in the mining sector, is close to the former MP Mher Sedrakyan. Mikayelyan, together with Mher Sedrakyan's relatives, privatized a community area in Erebuni for a small price.

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This is not the only mine linked to former MP Mher Sedrakyan. The right to use the subsoil of the 2nd section of the Jrvezh gypsum clay mine in the same year was given to Gaj CJSC, which is valid until 2057.

The director of this company, Arshak Yengoyan, is also the director of Autostop LLC, which is 100% owned by Mher Sedrakyan. Arshak Yengoyan was the director of DA Mining LLC in March-December 2013, where Mher Sedrakyan's son, David Sedrakyan, held a 50% stake during the same period. After a stint as a Yerevan Council of Elders member, David Sedrakyan held the position of Deputy Chairman of the State Cadastre Committee.

The fact that the company belongs to the Sedrakyans was not denied in one of the interviews by Alexan Khachatryan, the lawyer-manager of Gaj CJSC. He noted that Mher Sedrakyan does not intervene in the activities of Gaj CJSC and that production is entirely the domain of his son, David Sedrakyan, who is responsible for all business activities.

The Gaj CJSC plant is located a mere 650 meters away from the 9th block of Nor Nork, within the view of local residents.

They often breathe in plant emissions and see dust rising from the plant. Residents provided Hetq with a video of the dust from the factory.

In response to Hetq’s inquiry, the Nature Protection and Subsoil Inspection Body stated that in 2018 it carried out inspections for this subsoil user. They detected violations of Article 13 of the Law on Atmospheric Air Protection, as well as Article 13 of the Law on Waste, namely, the maximum permissible emission limits for atmospheric air pollutants, state registration of waste, registering it and submission of statistical reports.

In June 2018, the Ministry approved the project for the reconstruction of the plaster factory submitted by the company. With this project, the company announced that in addition to plaster, the plant will also produce cement, as well as upgrade and increase the dust cleaning equipment. Area residents have yet to see any air quality improvement.

Gaj CJSC received another right to use the subsoil of the Gajahank open-cast gypsum mine for a period of 19 years in March 2020. It is also near the 9th block of Nor Nork. The positive conclusion of the examination states that an area of ​​3.2 hectares is required, in the vicinity of which an area of ​​3.7 hectares will be planted with trees in order to create a forest protection zone. The company also promises to recultivate the damaged areas.

It turns out that the Yerevan Municipality does not have a land use agreement with Gaj CJSC. Consequently, the company has so far illegally used the mine to evade its obligations under the land use agreement. The EIA of the Nor Nork Administrative District Zoning Project of the Municipality of Yerevan, which was submitted to the Ministry of Environment in 2020, states that the company occupies an area of ​​4.45 hectares.

Hetq reporters were not allowed to enter the factory. Hetq’s efforts to get clarifications from director Arshak Yengoyan, also failed.  

Another company, with the participation of the same Henry Mikayelyan, Basalt Broken LLC, has been operating the Lesnoy site of the Voghjaberd andesite-basalt mine since 2013.

The company leased an area of three hectares from the Yerevan Municipality, and in September 2020, by the decision of Yerevan Mayor Marutyan, the boundaries of the land were clarified and re-granted to the company for a period of five years.

The EIA of the Nor Nork Administrative District Zoning Project of the Municipality of Yerevan, which was submitted to the Ministry of Environment in 2020, states that the company occupies an area of 12.6 hectares.

When Sedrakyan was still Erebuni District Head, Sedrakyan's close friend, Republican Party member Vachik Atoyan, profited from the privatizations of the property of Erebuni community, in particular, from the territory of Vardavar Park, according to one of the decision by the Council of Elders' in 2005. He got a 50.25 square meter building for 126,000 drams and 60.75 square meters of land worth 548,820 drams.

Vachik Atoyan is the director and owner of AVA-2000 LLC, which operates the Vardashen basalt mine. AVA-2000 also does not have a land use agreement with the Yerevan Municipality. In 2018, the Nature Protection and Subsoil Inspection Body carried out inspections in this mine and found a number of violations.

Yerevan’s Gajegortsneri Street Constantly Dust Covered

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Gajegortsner Street residents, inYerevan’s Erebuni District, are tired of protecting their houses from dust. They say they have been raising the issue for years, but nothing changes.

Rafik Hakobyan, who lives near the factory, invites Hetq reporters into the yard to show the white powder on the table. They have lived there since 1988. He admits that the dust was a bigger problem in the past. Plants growing in the yard were covered with plaster dust.

Today, the family doesn’t dare open any doors or windows in the morning. Hakobyan says they collected signatures and petitioned the prime minister, asking that either the plant be closed or the profusion of dust halted.

Gajegorts CJSC Legal Officer Minas Malkhasyan says the company installed a new filtration system in spring of 2020. He claims that a study done afterwards showed zero dust emissions. He says the plant now only emits steam and rejects the possibility of dust reaching nearby residents, who are at least 150 meters away.

The plaster factory on Gajegortsner Street belongs to Gajegorts CJSC, which operates the site, and the raw materials are transported from the mines located a few kilometers away.

The company has four subsoil use rights - three in Sari Tagh, in the same area, the fourth in the Jrvezh district. It operates Sari Tagh gypsum-clay-basalt deposit, Sari Tagh gypsum-clay-basalt mine, and Sari Tagh gypsum-clay south-eastern site and the gypsum-bearing clay mine in Jrvezh.

Gajegorts CJSC has leased two plots of land from the Yerevan Municipality, one on Davit Bek Street, with an area of ​​107,475 square meters, and the other on Vilnius Street, with an area of ​​4.2 hectares.

The Ministry of Environment, in response to Hetq’s inquiry, also stated that Hayantar SNCO signed two forest land lease agreements with Gajegorts CJSC in June 2019 for the south-eastern part of the gypsum-clay-basalt mine. The cadastral document for the registration of the right of lease states that the land with functional and operational significance is forested. That is, the category of forested lands has not changed.

Company representative Malkhasyan says that the change of category is not the responsibility of the tenant, but of the landowner.

The director and owner of Gajegorts CJSC is Armen Kalantaryan. He is the business partner of Shant Alexanyan, the brother of the former head of the RA Armed Forces Moral and Psychological Support Department, Major-General Alexan Alexanyan. Armen Kalantaryan and his brother Shant Aleksanyan have 30% shares each in Jeffers Club LLC.  According to the charter, this company carries out hotel activities, trade of food and non-food products, organization of catering, activities of casinos, bath-saunas, car maintenance, operation of gas stations.

Subsoil Use Without a Land Lease Agreement

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The hill starting from Davit Bek Street is the Lilit-Gor site of the Nork basalt mine. The road to the mine is littered with garbage dumps. Trucks loaded with large stones descend from the mine.  

The right to use the subsoil of this basalt mine was given to Valodya Grigoryan LLC in 2017. It has been extracting since that year, but does not have a lease agreement with the landowner. The company was provided with 4.9 hectares of land by the mountain allocation act.

Hearing that a Hetq team visited the site, Valodya Grigoryan quickly contacted Hetq and tried to clarify the situation.

He showed the funding of the Environmental Protection Fund and community socio-economic programs, which have been implemented since the day of operation. In addition, Grigoryan showed his appeals to Yerevan mayors and defense ministers, where he asked to clarify the issue of land ownership, to sign a land use agreement with him. In their responses, it was stated that the area belongs to the Ministry of Defense. The ministry is silent on the matter.

Former Yerevan Mayor Taron Margaryan, as well as current Mayor Hayk Marutyan, wrote letters to former Defense Ministers Vigen Sargsyan and David Tonoyan.

They noted that the contract for the lease of land within the limits of the mining deed provided to persons entitled to subsoil use is signed by the community leaders, in this case - the Mayor of Yerevan. Taking this into account, the mayors asked to discuss the issue of termination of the RA Ministry of Defense's right to the mentioned land plot in order to provide it to Valodya Grigoryan LLC.

The fact of not having a land use contract was also registered by the Inspection Body in 2019.

In response to Hetq’s inquiry, Armenia’s Investigative Committee stated that a criminal case had been instituted on suspicion of illegal subsoil use in the area under Article 291, Part 2 of the Criminal Code, i.e. violation of subsoil use, deviations from relevant projects or use of subsoil without a contract, causing damage to human health, the environment, the subsoil, the minerals, buildings or structures contained in it. The preliminary investigation of the criminal case continues.

Valodya Grigoryan claims that the fact of illegal subsoil use was connected with Hazravard Production Cooperative, which operates another mine above their mine, which kept mining after the contract had expired. He was also interrogated in that regard.

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Valodya Grigoryan LLC was also operating the Ajapnyak dolerite basalt mine without a land use contract. From the pedestrian section of Tichina Street in the Ajapnyak community of Yerevan, it was impossible not to notice the open stone quarry on the roadside. Only after a Hetq publication the company signed a lease agreement with the Municipality. Valodya Grigoryan now has to pay around four million drams a year to the community budget for 2.6 hectares of subsoil. Valodya Grigoryan thinks that the rent payment for the Nork mine will be around five million drams.

Hetq asked the Environment and Subsoil Inspectorate what mining companies in Yerevan they had inspected in the last two years and what they had found out.

The inspection body replied that in 2020 inspections were carried out at the Ajapnyak dolerite basalt mine operated by Valodya Grigoryan LLC, but due to the   coronavirus and the outbreak of war, the inspection was suspended.

Earlier, in 2019, they carried out inspections in the Lilit-Gor section of the Nork basalt exploited by the company and detected a number of violations.

In response to Hetq’s inquiry, the Inspection Body stated that the materials in this regard had been sent to the Investigative Committee. Meanwhile, the Investigative Committee gave a different answer, according to which those inspections were carried out on the initiative of the Committee, as there is a criminal case, already mentioned above, within which the body conducting the proceedings initiated a professional inspection, passing it to the inspection body. 

Another case has been added to this criminal case, initiated under Article 188, Part 3, Clause 1 of the Criminal Code (illegal business combined with causing particularly large damage to individuals or organizations or the state) and Article 290, Part 1 (poisoning, contamination or otherwise spoilage of the soil by harmful products of economic or other activities carried out for the storage, use, transportation of pesticides, fertilizers, plant growth promoters or other hazardous chemicals, violation of the rules, which intentionally or negligently caused significant damage to the environment), as well as Article 308, Part 1 (abuse of official authority, abuse of official position by an official against the interests of the service or non-performance of official duties due to self-interest, other personal interests or group interests, which has caused significant damage to the rights and legitimate interests of individuals, organizations, society or state (in case of property damage, the amount exceeding three hundred times the minimum wage established at the time of the crime or its value)).

At the current stage of the investigation, none of the employees of Valodya Grigoryan LLC have the judicial status of a defendant.

The preliminary investigation of the criminal case is underway. It is clear from the response of the Investigative Committee that the Hazravard production cooperative is also involved in the same case of violating the rules of subsoil protection and use.

Interconnected Mines

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The Quartz Production Cooperative has the right to use the subsoil of two sites. The first is the right to use the entrails of the Yerevan Astghik gypsum, rock and basalt mine, which was granted in 2012 and is valid until 2025. The second is the eastern part of the gypsum-bearing clay deposits of the same Astghik mine, which was received in the same year, but the period of activity is longer, until 2036.

The decision of Yerevan Mayor Hayk Marutyan, dated September 18, 2020, says that prior to that decision, the boundaries of the Astghik gypsum rock basalt mine had not been clarified. Chairman of Quartz PC Hayrapetyan applied to the Mayor with a request to clarify the boundaries of the land occupied by the mine and to sign a lease agreement. From the revision of the topographic extraction it was found that out of the 11200.0 sq.m. land allotted to Quartz by the Mountain Allocation Act on 07.07.2015, 2132.17 sq.m. are within the boundaries of the land allotted to Hayantar SNCO, and the land with an area of 9067.83 square meters is the property of Yerevan community.

According to Mayor Marutyan’s decision, the actual area of ​​the community-owned land allotted to Quartz PC is 9067.83 square meters instead of the previous 1.04 hectares.

The company does not have a contract with Hayantar SNCO.

The shares of the members of Quartz Production Cooperative are distributed as follows: 71% of shares belong to Gevorg Hayrapetyan, 20% to Kamo Isahakyan, and 9% - to Rafik Yegoryan.

In 2014, the State Subsoil Inspectorate of the Ministry of Energy Infrastructure and Natural Resources inspected this mine and found a violation of Article 59, Part 3, Clause 5 of the Subsoil Code, i.e. to keep geological, Markscheider and other documents, to preserve them during the work of all sorts.

In 2015, the State Environmental Inspectorate carried out inspections and found a violation of Article 15 of the Law on Atmospheric Air Protection, i.e. ensuring compliance with the requirements for emissions of air pollutants.

Hankard LLC had two permits for subsoil use: for Jrvezh gypsum-bearing clay basalt, as well as for Nork basalt Hankard section. The Jrvezh gypsum clay and basalt mine and open pit mine are located in the area adjacent to the 4th block of Nor Nork, on the right slope of the Jrvezh gorge. The Nork Hankard site and open pit are located in the eastern suburbs of the Nork micro-district.

The subsoil use permit for the first mine, given in 2012, expired in June 2019, and the second one will expire in 2023.

Hankard LLC was formed on the basis of 3 production areas separated from Quartz PC, maintaining the sphere of previous activity. In 2005-2015, it belonged to Kamo Isahakyan, one of the owners of Quartz SC. After leaving, Kamo Isahakyan handed over his share to Inga Kasyan, who is the daughter of Vladimir Kasyan, the head of the administration of the Shushi region of Artsakh. However, on November 27, 2018, Inga Kasyan also left the list of owners, transferring her share to Metaksya Asatryan. In January 2019, Asatryan transferred her share to Artak Harutyunyan, registered in Berd, Tavush region. Artak Harutyunyan is the director of Amiks Hotel LLC, where Inga Kasyan has 50% of shares. 

Varuzhan Yegoryan, the son of Rafik Yegoryan, the other owner of the Quartz PC, also shows up in the list of shareholders in 2005.

In 2015, the State Subsoil Inspectorate of the Ministry of Energy Infrastructure and Natural Resources carried out only inspections in Hankard LLC, registering violation of Article 59, Part 3, Clause 5. 

The Yerevan Municipality told Hetq that, according to the decision of September 18, 2020, the lease agreement for the land plot for Vilnius Street with Hankard LLC was terminated. Hankard LLC currently has only one contract with the Municipality for a 17,300-square-meter plot of land on Davit Bek Street.

Graves and Mines Without Demarcation

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Mining stone processing machines are working in the immediate vicinity of Yerevan’s Shahumyan Cemetery,

X Igrek LLC operates the Victory basalt mine there and has the right to mine until 2029. The stones roll from the mine and reach the graves, sometimes crashing into and breaking the tombstones. There is nothing specifying the boundary between the graves and the mine. There are graves all around the mine.

Hetq reporters attempted to visit the site but were told to leave the area.

The owner of X Igrek LLC is Ghukas Grigoryan. The company has also received a capital construction license. Until 2017, Ghukas Grigoryan was a shareholder in Aygepat Wine and Brandy Factory LLC.

This mine, operating under high-voltage power lines, is based on a 65,000-square-meter plot of land leased from the Yerevan community.

Unused Mines

Megeryan LLC has the right to use subsoil for the Spandaryan basalt mine, which, however, is not exploited. According to Lilia Shushanyan, Deputy Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure, the company does not carry out extraction works due to the community not signing a land use contract. However, in response to Hetq, the Yerevan Municipality mentioned that the company had leased a 101477.63 square meter plot of land in the Silikyan district from the community.

The shareholder of the company is Harut Harry Megeryan. The mine was not exploited at the time of Hetq’s visit.

Gikar LLC has the right to use subsoil for the Voghjaberd gypsum clay site, which will be over in 2023. The company has a land use contract for an area of ​​65,800 square meters. The owner is Arman Piloyan. He is also the owner of  Construction A.N. and Service LLC. There was no work at the mine on the day Hetq reporters visited

Other Types of Mines

Avan Salt Factory CJSC has the right to use subsoil in 2012-2037. Avan Salt Factory CJSC is the only salt producing enterprise in the region. The factory was built in 1967 directly on the salt mine, which is located in the Avan administrative district of Yerevan. It was owned by the state until 2001, then privatized by the staff. The statutory capital of the company, according to the charter, is 746 million drams.

The plant has two main productions: a high-quality iodized table salt concentrator and a mining quarry for rock salt. The director is Armen Vasilyan.


Yerevan is surrounded by large mining pits.The extracted ore is transported out and the affected areas are not rehabilitated. There aren’t any water cannons in the mines, signifying that dust mitigation measures remain on paper and are not used in daily practice.

Mine areas are “free zones” where entry and exit are not controlled in any way. If all this is happening in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, one can only imagine how natural resources are extracted and extorted in other corners of the country that are far from the public gaze.

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