Mining for Molybdenum?: Environmentalists raise more protests over Teghut impact

Zaruhi Postanjyan
Environmental and other nongovernmental organizations have launched a decisive struggle for the operation of the Teghut mine and entrails surveys in Armenia to be stopped, which they say is the only way to save the country from an environmental disaster.

At the Friday press club on Tuesday, the Initiative Group on Teghut Defense presented to media their programs and already implemented measures, including a protest action near the National Assembly building last month, an awareness bike tour in Yerevan and from Yerevan to Teghut, which is in the north-east of Armenia.

Initiative group member Mariam Sukhudyan said most of the residents of the villages of Teghut and Shnogh that they visited are against the operation of the mines: “They need us, need us to take alternative action so that they will not lose those territories.”

As activists who visited Teghut learned, only 400-500 of the villages’ about 6,000 population will have jobs as laborers in the mine with wages of some 30-40,000 drams ($100-$130) a month, whereas lucrative ecotourism businesses can be developed in the area.

The Armenian Copper Program (ACP) Company owned by a Liechtenstein-based company (81 percent) and Russian citizen Valeri Mezhlumyan (19 percent) received a government license for the development of the Teghut mine last fall.

It implies logging of about 350 hectares of virgin forests with rare plants and animal species as well as a construction of a plant whose tailings, according to environmentalists, will have an irreparably damaging effect.

Representatives of environmental organizations that have joined in the initiative stated that the examination conducted by the Environment Ministry did not consider facts and real numbers and did not fully estimate the damages that Armenia’s nature and biodiversity will incur because of the mine’s operation.

“What is essential is not only those 350 hectares of forest that face complete destruction, but tens of thousands of hectares that are under the influence of this mine. In fact, one should estimate not the damage that will be in eight or 16 years, but in the next 100 years,” “Burg” environmental NGO chairman Arman Vermishyan said.

MP Zaruhi Postanjyan from the opposition Heritage faction who had also joined the Initiative Group on Teghut Defense invoked Armenia’s Constitution and said that the development of the second mine of such a strategic mineral as molybdenum in Armenia (along with the mine in Kajaran) is unreasonable now.

Postanjyan said that the action group was going to file several lawsuits with courts disputing the government license for the operation of the Teghut mine (molybdenum and copper) as well as any permission for prospecting work for uranium in Armenia’s southern provinces.

“Prospecting work for uranium must be stopped for the next 100 years because even surveys are very dangerous,” the lawmaker said. “If we fail to stop the Teghut development, our future will not be living in Armenia.”