Amulsar: even “responsible” mining is destructive – Dr. Anahid Shirinian-Orlando
Lydian International Limited company, registered in an offshore zone, presented a document entitled “Amulsar Project, November 2014″ to Armenians in the Diaspora. This document is superficial, misleading and incomplete. This is what thinks Anahit Shirinian-Orlando, an environmental scientist-engineer living in Los Angeles, who says No to mining at Amulsar.
There is a complete absence of any hydrological study. For example, there is no assessment of how the mining operation will affect the quantity and quality of the water of Vorotan River, of Arpa River, all the small streams on the slopes, as well as the Spandarian Reservoir.
In particular, I found the claim on page 9, “zero discharge into environment” to be completely misleading. For one thing, the explosions at the mine will cause earthquake tremors in the surrounding villages, such that the houses will shake, and immense clouds of dust from these explosions, as well as from rock crushing operations, (containing toxic heavy metals, such as Arsenic, Cadmium, radioactive Uranium, and many other heavy metals), will fill the air and the lungs of the inhabitants, as well as settle on pastures, on streams, on all surfaces, poisoning and killing slowly every living organism. (Just look a little further, at Kajaran mine, and see how these explosions are affecting the health and lives (shortening the life spans) of the locals.
Heap-leach pad technology is nothing new (look here).
The pad’s integrity fails in time (cracks, etc.) and the cyanide leachate contaminates the ground below and around the pad, thus, the groundwater and/or nearby streams become contaminated with cyanides and heavy metals (no one can guarantee that the 3mm geomembrane layer placed at the bottom of the platform will not erase after a few decades). Besides, the heap itself is subject to landslides.
Amulsar mountain formation has a water tunnel running along on one side and a gas pipeline on the other, both will be compromised by earthquake tremors from mine explosions.
Reading the document, it is not clear how much tax Lydian will pay to the local government, as well as to the central government. For example, Lydian should pay royalties to the government of Armenia, as well as taxes and waste dumping fees. Furthermore, it is not clear how much money will be allocated to reclamation after the mining ends. Since reclamation is a capital-intensive operation, there should be guarantees to the government that it will be performed at the end. One such guarantee will be to deposit the capital allocated for reclamation in a separate account to be used only for land reclamation after the mining is over.
I can write more comments on the document. I just wish to remind Lydian, that many members of the village communities of Gendevaz and Jermuk are strongly opposed to mining. Also, there are profitable alternatives to digging for gold and silver, such as constructing a cheese producing factory and exporting delicious cheeses from the pastures and grasslands of Amulsar.
It is the hope of people living in Armenia, as well as all Armenians, that instead of mining, investors will shift their interest to non-destructive enterprises, because even “responsible” mining is destructive (even though it’s less destructive compared to previous methods).