Larisa Paremuzyan

American-Armenian Mine Operator Flouts the Law

Large Photograph of Der-Boghosyan with President Serves as Carte Blanche A large photograph depicting Serop Der-Boghosyan, the American-Armenian owner of the Akhtala Mining and Metallurgical Combine, standing next to President Serzh Sargsyan, was recently affixed to one of the five story buildings in the Sarahart neighborhood of the town located in Lori Marz. The photo, taken from a banner used during the last presidential campaign, used to hang from the cultural center building owned by Der-Boghosyan in the town square. In Akhtala, residents say that the photo was hung from the apartment building at the behest of Der-Boghosyan, the owner of Metal Prince Ltd. It seems that the photo holds great importance for him and that he feels safer when he flouts the laws of the land because of the photo and what it symbolizes. Back in September, 2009, Hetq wrote about how the residents of the village of Shamlugh were upset and concerned by the explosions being set off by Metal Prince in an open mine pit in their community. Hetq also reported that the company was operating the mine illegally and that no public hearings had taken place allowing for community input. Village Mayor Lendrush Bezhanyan reported to the press that the mine was using 50 hectares of forest land. "They have a license but in my capacity as mayor I have not granted them permission to operate the mine for the past year. Serop Der-Boghosyan hasn't paid any land taxes for the mine site," Mayor Bezhanyan told Hetq. We just found out that the open mine has been operating for the past three years and that Metal Prince hasn't paid any land tax to the municipality in this period. The Shamlugh mayor hid this fact from us when we spoke to him last year. Nine months after our original article appeared in Hetq, Mayor Lendrush Bezhanyan now says that the Shamlugh Village Council has presented its decision allowing for the three year operation of the mine on municipal land to the Lori Regional Administration. "It will be presented to the government, with the signature of the Regional Governor, for passage. We have done what we were supposed to do." According to our reliable sources, Der-Boghosyan was given a license to operate a closed mine, but the advisor to the Prime Minister reserved the right to flout the law and operate an open mine. The forest on the mine site has also been chopped down. The mayor of Shamlugh couldn't tell us why he would allow the operation of an open pit mine in his community when the license only allows for a closed mine. For the past three years, Metal Prince has never faced any sanctions for violating the terms of its operating license. No wonder why the large photo affixed to the building in the center of Akhtala is so important. We should also remind readers that Der-Boghosyan has stubbornly refused to meet his obligations to guarantee the safety of the tailings dams in the communities of Tchotchkan and Metz Ayrum. The Tchotchkan  tailings dam lies in a landslide zone and there is a real risk that the toxic materials stored inside will seep into the Debed River. One year ago a company guard was posted at the site. Today, the site is unmonitored. The tailings dam has no fence around it or warning signs to ward off unsuspecting intruders. Local residents often let their animals graze there. For the past two years, Der-Boghosyan has been saying his company has stopped operating the tailings dam but reprocessing work has just started up. On June 11 we noticed that in the middle of the tailings dam a few car fulls of dirt had been dumped. The technical situation at the tailings dam in Metz Ayrum is also pretty poor. During the night, under cover of darkness, tailings are dumped directly into the Debed River.