A mining company developing a major copper and molybdenum deposit in the north of Armenia has denied any major problems at its facilities after a series of claims doubting the safety of its operations, including from the former owner of the mine.
The Teghut company working in Armenia’s Lori province said in a statement on Thursday that it considers suing an American consulting firm representative who recently claimed in an interview with a local media outlet that the Teghut mine’s tailings dam is critically unsafe and could collapse soon.
It also countered the claims of Valex Mining, a company that formerly owned the mine, which issued a statement earlier this week citing the conclusion of “three internationally recognized organizations” that urgent measures must be taken to enhance the safety of the Teghut mine’s tailings dam. Otherwise, Valex Mining warned, “further operation of the enterprise will lead to the real threat of the dam collapse.”
Valex Mining stopped the operation of the mine in 2018. Later, the Russian VTB bank took over the mine on the account of Valex Mining’s debt of about $400 million.
In its statement Teghut rejected claims about risks connected with the tailings dam as groundless. It also accused the former owner of “trying to mislead the public, thereby justifying the fact that it stopped the work of Teghut and put the population of the nearby communities in a difficult social situation.”
“In 2018, the company [Valex Mining] ceased operations due to a reason not related to the tailing dam,” said the Teghut company that re-commissioned the mine last month. “For the first time, the former administration [of the enterprise] stated about a possible risk in terms of sustainability of the tailings dam in July 2018, when it was already clear that the bank would take over the shares in the company due to its non-fulfillment of its obligations.”
The Teghut company also said that since the visit by experts commissioned by Valex Mining “the main factors that could have a negative impact on the stability of the tailings dam have significantly changed.” The company stressed that “the tailings dam that has not been used for about a year and a half has been drained and fortified.”
When the Teghut mine was being ceremonially re-launched last month Lori Governor Andrey Ghukasian and Teghut’s Executive Director Karen Ghazarian spoke about “deliberately spread fake news” about the danger of collapse at the tailings depot.
Ghazarian then told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) that they have a positive conclusion of the Technical Safety Center. But he added that they plan to invite an independent expert company to get another opinion. “We will thus try to dispel or disprove these myths or illusions,” said Ghazarian.
The Teghut company currently employs 900 people, most of whom are residents of the Lori province.