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Armenia Government Grants Water Permit To Gold Mine Project Beset By Local Protests

YEREVAN, Armenia

The ministry of the environment of Armenia has granted a water permit to the Amulsar gold project, according to a press release from operators Lydian International. Local communities and environmental activists have prevented access to the mine for 20 months. Lydian plans to use cyanide in mining operations with potential health impacts and environmental risks. Increased amounts of dust and muddy tap water in local villages, as well as unusual fish deaths have been reported since construction began in 2017.

The company had twice previously applied to withdraw up to 40 litres/second (l/s) from the Arpa River. This volume would have allowed completion of the mine and support for long term operations but these applications were denied in 2019.

The approved withdrawal of 11 l/s from the Darb River is estimated to be sufficient to complete construction. In addition, the company is appealing a decision that denied 40 l/s from the Darb River.

The mine is located in a remote mountainous region and has been in development since 2016, with nearly $500 Million USD invested to date. The company contends that the project has met all legal and environmental requirements of the government. Further, the project has been rigorously reviewed by an independent advisory panel, that has confirmed the company has complied with Armenia’s laws and regulations.

The company, claiming to have met all governmental requirements is now requesting “immediate action” from the government to shut down the protests. There is a promise of job creation and tax revenues. The company delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange in February to protect itself from creditors. Lydian said last year the blockade had forced it to cut more than 1,000 jobs and caused losses of more than $60 million.

Edward Sellers, Interim President & CEO of Lydian International, said: “We recognize that the Government of Armenia has granted Lydian Armenia a water use permit that would allow the Company to recommence construction. However, the Company is still deprived of access to its property by illegal blockades and has been unable to raise financing to complete construction of the Amulsar Project as a result.”

“We call on the Government of Armenia to take immediate action to address the continuing illegality around the Amulsar Project. The restoration of the rule of law will serve the interests of thousands of Armenian citizens, including community members, employees, contractors and suppliers, as well as thousands of investors who invested in Armenia in good faith and with the hope that their legal rights would be protected.”

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called on protesters last month to end their 20-month blockade of the gold mine, saying the protest was not in the national interest.