By Emil Danielyan
The Armenian government announced on Thursday plans to privatize the country’s remaining state-owned mining industries that have gone through rocky times since the Soviet collapse.
The ruling cabinet set up an inter-ministerial commission that will manage the privatization, presumably to a foreign company, of one of the two large enterprises which is located near the town of Kajaran in the southeastern Syunik region. The mountainous area has Armenia’s biggest deposits of copper and molybdenum ores. Thousands of people are employed by the plant built in the 1970s.
A government statement said the privatization commission will be headed by Minister of Industry and Economic Development Karen Chshmaritian. It was not clear whether any foreign investor has shown interest in the Kajaran factory.
The government said it has already received a takeover bid from a U.S. mining firm for the other copper and molybdenum enterprise located some 50 kilometers further to the south, near the Iranian border. It decided to accept the offer, citing the investor’s “long experience” in the business and the need to ensure the Agarak plant’s “stable development.” The amount of the deal was not disclosed.
An American company, Global Gold, already operates in the remote area, owning and developing its Soviet-era gold mines. The country’s main gold deposits, concentrated in the central Kotayk and Gegharkunik regions, are managed by India's Sterlite Industries group. It produced 1.8 tons of the precious metal in Armenia last year.
The planned sell-offs would leave virtually the whole of the Armenian mining sector in private hands.