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Kristine Aghalaryan

Yerevan Residents Say "No" to Proposed Smelter

Residents of the northern Yerevan district of Avan today voiced their opposition to a project to build a smelter in their backyard.

Residents disrupted a public hearing today on the project at the Avan District Administration. They attempted to block Copper LLC company representatives from entering the hall and from exhibiting photos depicting what the proposed smelter would look like.

Ministry of Environment expert Hovik Mesropyan told residents that the smelter’s capacity had been scaled down from 1,800 to 900 tons after the Avan Municipality opposed the original draft.

Mesropyan said the ministry had also rejected the first project draft because a suitable sanitary zone for 1,800 tons was untenable.

Hovhannes Nikoghosyan, who launched the smelter project, said emission measurements were taken for every fifty meters in the impact zone, a move which seemed to satisfy the requirements of the Ministry of Health.

When Avan resident Hovhannes Avetisyan asked if those emission measurements had been verified by a third party, the answer was no. Nikoghosyan’s company performed the measurements.

Garik Badalyan, representing the 5,000 residents of the newly built Tzarav Aghbyur neighborhood, said the company scaled back production capacity to obtain an operating permit and that production volumes in these types of projects usually increase over time.

Badalyan said he moved to the neighborhood, which still lacks schools and other public facilities, because of the relatively clean environment.

He said that a smelter would damage the environment and decrease home values in the district.

When company representatives told residents that emissions from the proposed smelter would not exceed accepted levels, Badalyan shot back, “There are no such levels when it comes to poisoning my child.”

Yerevan Municipal Councilor Izabella Abgarya said that Yerevan's air is already extremely polluted, and the smelter would only exacerbate the problem.

Tzarav Aghbyur resident Edmon Marukyan, who now serves as an ambassador-at-large for Armenia, told company representatives they are wasting their time trying to push the project through since most residents oppose it.

"Sell the land. Go build somewhere else," Marukyan said.

Residents then proposed a show of hands to see how many approved the smelter project. Only one of raised their hand.

Residents left the hall voicing their determination to prevent the smelter’s construction.

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