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Edik Baghdasaryan

New Hrazdan Mine Fulfills the Dream of Former Environment Minister Vardan Ayvazyan

Several months ago during a T.V. interview, Vardan Ayvazyan, Armenia’s former Minister of Nature Protection and currently President of the National Assembly’s Permanent Committee for Economic Affairs, confessed that he dreams about iron production in Armenia. He started to take steps to realize this dream back when he Minister of Nature Protection by granting himself licenses to explore potential mining sites.

Last year the Ministry of Trade and Economic Development granted a special mining operator’s license to Nagin, Ltd., a company that is owned by the Ayvazyan family.

A parcel of land located some 1.5 kilometers north-east of the town of Hrazdan in Kotayk Marz containing deposit reserves of  70,266 tons (19,304 cubic meters) was licensed to Nagin, Ltd. for a period of 25 years. Let us remind readers that Nagin Ltd. is registered under the names of Vardan Ayvazyan’s wife and son.

Exploitation of the Hrazdan ironstone mine is envisaged to proceed above board. Before mining operations can begin the site must undergo a series of technical tests required of such hazardous production facilities. After checking the documentation of Nagin, Ltd. a group of specialists granted the company the company a clean bill of health on September 16th.

Environmental impact studies were conducted by the “Mining and Metallurgy Institute” which on October 13th also granted Nagin Ltd the go-ahead for the start of operations. Here we should bear in mind that the Hrazdan River, along with its tributaries the Tzaghadzor and the Marmarik, flow a mere 500 meters distance from the mine site.

The entire project is still under wraps, neither the environmental community nor even local residents are aware of it despite the fact that public hearings on the matter are to be scheduled.

Looking at the “Environmental Impact Assessment” issued by the Mining and Metallurgy  Institute it is obvious that the document isn’t worth the paper it is written on; that it’s a mere fabrication. One immediately gets the feeling that the document is compensation for services rendered by Ayvazyan when he served as Minister. Let’s not forget that this Institute is owned by the Vallex Group, a family of companies owned by Valery Mejlumyan. The Armenian Copper Program, a company within Vallex, has paid for the right to spew exhaust fumes into the air above Alaverdi and to operate the Teghut mine.

A few paragraphs of the above-mentioned environmental assessment touch on the environmental impacts of such a project at Hrazdan. One cites that, “The overall yearly quantity of hazardous waste exhausts will total 1,448 tons of which dust particles will comprise 27 % and exhausts from vehicles and machinery, 65%.” The Impact Study doesn’t specify what the remaining 8% will consist of.

Let me also bring to your attention another disturbing fact. There is another industrial giant operating in the town, the Hrazdan cement factory, which spews huge amounts of dust into the surrounding atmosphere. Hrazdan is a town that lies only a few kilometers from the resort towns of Tzaghkadzor, Hankavan and Aghveran; towns that are banking on the tourist trade as a prime component of their long-term development plans.

According to Environmental Impact Assessment figures published by the Ministry of Nature Protection, the amount of dust particles in Hrazdan’s atmosphere thrice exceeds permissible levels. During certain months of the year such levels are almost six times the norm. Lat year, when Hetq asked if the cement factory was planning to implement environmental safeguards no answers were forthcoming from either plant management or the Ministry.

In any event, to realize the Hrazdan project will require an investment of millions of dollars by Vardan Ayvazyan. The Former Environment Minister and present National Assembly Deputy will be forced to explain where all that money has come from.