The strike action began on Saturday and continued on Monday, reportedly involving about one-third of the Chaarat Kapan company’s 1,000-strong workforce.
The protesting workers are demanding increases in their wages and monthly financial compensation paid for their exposure to dust and toxic waste. They also want the company management to provide them with health insurance.
Four of those workers began a hunger strike on Sunday. One of them, Spartak Sargsian, said on Monday they will refuse food until their demands are met.
“My monthly wage is 173,000 drams ($420),” Sargsian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “On top of that, there is health compensation worth 50 percent [of the wage.]”
Negotiations held between the workers and the company management have yielded no results so far.
One of the workers who asked not to be identified said the management has expressed readiness to finance health insurance for its personnel but rejected the pay rises. Company executives have threatened to shut down the underground mines and their ore-processing facility, added the worker.
Chaarat Kapan said in a statement that it cannot afford pay rises because of unfavorable global economic developments and recent months’ significant appreciation of the Armenian currency, the dram, which has hit the export-oriented company hard.
Chaarat Kapan mines gold, copper, silver and zinc near the southeastern Armenian town of Kapan. Its parent company, Chaarat Gold, is registered in the British Virgin Islands and headquartered in London.
The underground mines were previously owned by a Russian metals group. Chaarat bought them for $55 million in 2019.