The mayor of a village in Armenia’s northern Lori province has stepped down after the local council and residents rejected an obscure company’s plans to mine gold near their community.
Many in the village of Ardvi believe that open-pit mining operations would wreak havoc on the local ecosystem by contaminating water sources, forests and pastures. Dozens of them blocked the entrance to Ardvi on July 26 to disrupt a supposedly public discussion on the controversial project mandated by Armenian law. Most members of the village council sided with the protesters.
The little-known company called Miram has so far divulged few details of its plans to develop a gold deposit located in the mountainous area. It was registered in Armenia just three months ago.
Miram’s shareholders included at least until this month a man linked to Vahram Baghdasarian, the parliamentary leader of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). This fact has fueled media speculation that Baghdasarian is involved in the controversial project. The influential politician, who is a native of Lori, has not commented on the issue yet.
Members of the Ardvi council said on Tuesday that the village mayor, Samvel Kirakosian, tendered his resignation on the same day that the local government body rejected his proposal to allow Miriam to conduct a geological survey on 150 hectares of community land. They told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the resignation was not accepted by the council.
“He was probably upset with something,” said Suren Veranian, one of the council members. “We told him that we are not accepting his resignation and the guy agreed with us, saying that he will withdraw the resignation.”
Another councilor, Vaghinak Varosian, said the village chief was “very offended” by some locals’ accusations that he is ready to “sell out and ruin the village.” He described Kirakosian as a man who “really cares about the village.”
Kirakosian, who has run Ardvi for the last seven years, refused to comment when RFE/RL’s Armenian contacted him by phone. His office was closed on Tuesday.
The villagers insisted, meanwhile, that they will continue to strongly oppose any gold mining in or around Ardvi.