Economic Development Minister Suren Karayan said on Wednesday that production operations at Armenia’s second largest copper mine were halted recently because its waste disposal facilities need major upgrades.
Vallex Group, a private mining company, sent the vast majority of its 1,200 employees working at the Teghut deposit on indefinite leave on January 12, citing the need for “planned prophylactic repairs.” Vallex announced on February 2 that it will lay them off due to what it expects to be a “prolonged stoppage.” It claimed that it needs time to commission feasibility studies on its plans to significantly boost production there.
Several Yerevan-based environment protection activists said on Monday that the shutdown is the result of growing toxic leaks from the mine contaminating a nearby river. One of them claimed that a tailings dump at Teghut “could crumble at any moment.” Vallex has still not commented on those claims.
“Right now studies related to the tailings dump are being conducted there,” Karayan said, according to the Armenpress news agency. “Two foreign entities are exploring things to see what needs to be done so that the mine can continue its environmentally safe operations.”
Speaking during the Armenian government’s question-and-answer session in the parliament, Karayan said mining and ore processing at Teghut will resume after Vallex modernizes some of its facilities. The “re-equipment” process will take “some time,” the minister added without giving any time frames.
The Teghut operator has also not specified when it could reopen the mine located in the northern Lori province. It said on February 2 that it will retain a skeleton staff of around 300 employees who will guard the site and look after its industrial equipment.