Dozens of residents of a village in Armenia’s northern Lori province blocked a local road on Wednesday to protest against an obscure private company’s plans to mine gold near their community.
They fear that the project, if implemented, will wreak havoc on the local ecosystem by contaminating forests and pastures surrounding their village of Ardvi. They say that open-pit mining there will also scare away tourists visiting 10th century shrines located Ardvi.
The company in question, called Miram, has so far divulged few details of its plans to develop a gold deposit located in the mountainous area. It has yet to secure government permission for the proposed mining operation.
Armenian law requires companies seeking mining licenses, among other things, to hold public hearings in communities that would be affected by their operations. Miram planned to hold such a discussion on Wednesday.
The protesting villagers thwarted the procedure by blocking a road leading to Ardvi and defying police officers’ calls to unblock it. “Our gold is our nature,” said one of the angry protesters.
“Their aim is to destroy our village. We won’t allow any hearing,” cried another villager.
Representatives of Miram never showed up. The company’s shareholders until now included Arayik Zadoyan, the manager of a restaurant in the provincial capital Vanadzor. The restaurant belongs to Vahram Baghdasarian, the parliamentary leader of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
Zadoyan claimed on Wednesday that he no longer holds a stake in Miram. He said that the company is controlled by one of his friends based in Russia.