A group of residents of the resort town of Jermuk joined scores of environmental activists in Yerevan on Thursday to stage a protest in front of the central government offices in the Armenian capital against the construction of a gold mine at Amulsar that they claim will jeopardize the country’s eco-system.
In 2016, the Armenian government issued a British-American mining company, Lydian International, a license to develop a mine in Armenia’s central Vayots Dzor province. But the site has been blockaded by environmental activists and local residents since May 2018 when a new government was formed in Armenia following the ‘Velvet Revolution.’
Activists claim that the project will affect Armenia’s waters, including Lake Sevan, the largest body of fresh water in the country. They demand that a new environmental impact study be conducted and that Lydian’s license be revoked. In March 2019, Lydian notified the Armenian government of a potential international arbitration.
Armenian Environmental Front activist Levon Galstian said that residents of Jermuk have been left out of the decision-making mechanisms and want to have their violated rights restored. “Here the matter concerns rights and not some laws, especially those written under the previous corrupt government,” he said during today’s protest.
Protests over Amulsar rekindled earlier this month when Lydian security workers dismantled wagon houses of activists blockading the roads leading to the site and placed their own instead.
As a result of a standoff that lasted for several days and was accompanied by clashes between protesters and police officers environmentalists managed to get the authorities to remove Lydian wagons from the area.
Lydian says its license for mining at Amulsar remains valid and calls the blockade of its site illegal. The company says that it has suffered serious financial losses as a result of the blockade, accusing the Armenian government of failing to curtail the “illegal activities.”
It became known earlier this month that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development had ended its investment in the project. A Lydian representative stressed, however, that this circumstance will not affect the activities of the company or the quality of its work.