Kristine Aghalaryan

Mine Company Owners Not Welcome: Artvi Village Residents Block Road

Residents of Artvi, a village in Armenia’s Lori Province, took to the streets today to voice their opposition to a planned mining project in their backyard.

They have blocked the road leading to the village in an attempt turn back a delegation from Miram LLC, the company that wants to launch exploratory operations at the site.

The Miram representatives are slated to visit the village to attend a public hearing on the mine.

Protestors carried signs declaring: “Our gold is our history”, “Stay away from Artvi”, and “Artvi is an Armenian shrine”.

Andranik Kirakosyan, the municipal accountant, told Hetq that the mining company wants to take over 140 hectares of the village’s 566 hectares of land for exploratory purposes.

“We have springs and cemeteries there. Our history is there. We have nothing to give them,” said a Artvi resident.

The public hearing had been scheduled for noon, but as of 1:30 p.m., none of the company representatives had yet arrived.

The ranks of the protesters were buoyed by the arrival of environmentalists from Yerevan and Yelk Alliance MP Gevorg Georgisyan.

Officials from the environment ministry, perhaps startled by the protesters, remained in their car. They said they were willing to listen to all arguments, pro or con, at the designated site of the public hearing; the Artvi municipal building

A police official tried to convince the protesters that blocking the road doesn’t serve their cause, but they stood their ground, saying the road was open to all except the Miram officials.

Miram LLC has already filed a preliminary environmental impact assessment with the environmental ministry.

Update: Representatives from Miram LLC arrived at the village some two hours later but never got out of their car. They never heard the concerns of residents regarding the company’s plans to launch exploratory operations at the Shekaghbyur mine. Resident Artak Kirakosyan took us on a tour of the site, where two springs providing water to the village are located, in addition to an old cemetery and the Hovhan of Odzoun Church.