By Emil Danielyan
A U.S. gold mining company has announced plans to expand its operations in Armenia by developing and exporting the country’s hitherto untapped uranium reserves.
The Connecticut-based Global Gold Corporation (GGC) said late Wednesday it has acquired a vast plot of land in the northeastern Gegharkunik region which geologists believe is rich in uranium and gold ores. The company is understood to be primarily interested in local deposits of the radioactive metal used as nuclear fuel.
The deal took the form of GGC buying 80 percent of Athelea Investments, a Yerevan-registered company owned by U.S. and Australian citizens. The little-known firm, which will be renamed after the small river Getik flowing in the mountainous area, holds the exclusive rights to the 27-square-kilometer property.
The area was extensively explored by Soviet mining experts in the 1970s. “These studies concluded that the region is prospective for radioactive elements, including uranium,” GGC said in a statement. “A suite of radioactive minerals were reported in the samples, including uraninite (uranium oxide),” it added.
GGC sources in Yerevan told RFE/RL Thursday that the U.S. company will conduct further exploration to ascertain the local uranium and gold reserves before starting to mine -- a process that will take up to three years. They said the uranium ore will likely be processed in Armenia and smelted in Europe or the United States.
Armenia was a major center of non-ferrous metallurgy in the former Soviet Union and still exports copper and gold in large quantities. But its uranium reserves have not been developed so far.
“Consistent with its company Code of Business Conduct and Ethics for all operations, the Getik property will be developed according to best practices for safety and environmental matters,” said the GGC statement.
The U.S. company already operates several small gold mines in Armenia. One of them was bought for $3.5 million as recently as last August.
Incidentally, GGC’s number two top executive is Van Krikorian, the former chairman of the Armenian Assembly of America, a Washington-based lobbying group. Krikorian was also one of the members of the former Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission.