Point of View

Amulsar: stock of hazardous uranium and precious gold

23.10.2011

"Geoteam" company representatives claim that only gold is their interest while the environmentalists keep on insisting that 70 tones of uranium  from the same mine will expose to  radiation the region regardless of their interest of gold or something else.

Within the frames of "Arevordi" film festival "Amulsar: Gold Rush" film was presented and the environmentalists expressed their concerns. However, the representative of "Geoteam" company has not agreed with those concerns.  

Amulsar is situated 170 km from Yerevan, at the border of Vayots Dzor and Syuniq provinces. There are 248 species of plants and 6 of them are registered in the Red Book of Armenia. 60 species of mammals, 12 species of reptiles, 2 species of Amphibians and 5 species of fishes inhabit the place. The environmentalists are concerned that in the result of gold mine development will endanger these species.

There are two dams in the vicinity of Amulsar: the Ketchup Dam and Spandaryan Dam situated 2 km from Amulsar, the second largest dam of Armenia which has a storage volume of 257 million of cubic meters.

 "We found that the gold mine operation will be hazardous for Jermuk Health Resort and 6000 of its population as it is situated 12 km frоm the Amulsar peak.", says Inga Zarafyan,  Chairwoman of the Information NGO "Ecolur"

The environmentalists remind that Jermuk is the international health resort where medicinal water is originated; it received a status of hydrological reserve and is included in the network of specially protected territories of Armenia. Investments are made to reinforce the development of tourism   and network of health resorts.

 "Geoteam" company has officially stated that for operation of the mine they will use dissolving liquid, cyanide which is harmful for health. Besides, dust will accumulate in the neighboring territories just several minutes after explosions used in mine development, which is also hazardous.

"Mine development will result in generating lead which affects the nervous and blood systems and we will have high mortality rate in the territory. This may lead to underdevelopment. Besides, cyanides generated from gold mining  leads to serious respiratory problems: this fine dust spreads up to 30 km, it is accumulated in plants, reaches the animals and then gets to us," alarmed Knarik Grigoryan, employee of the Environmental Health department of the   "Armenian Women For Health and Healthy Environment" NGO.

Geologist Ruben Yadoyan noticed that so far no any mine has been operated without adverse impact on the environment no matter if they were guided by the international standards.

"Even in case of opencast mining you haven't assessed obvious risks. You haven't worked out any definite measures in regard with toxic substances left out as a result of mine development in your primary programs and didn't take into consideration that Jermuk is a combination of very fine 6-7 mines, which can change their way from a slight shake,"   Yadoyan expressed his concern to Armen Stepanyan, Social Manager at the company planning to develop the mine.

According to the data of the film authors, one tone of mine rock contains one gram of gold, (figures of Lydian International), 70 million tones of wastes will remain in the territory and after the mine development we will have 420 hectares of land buried under the piles litter. "Lydian International" measured 70 tones of stock.    

Armen Stepanyan emphasized that they don not see any hazard and their exploratory works are still in progress. He didn't detail what they are going to do with the wastes generated from mine development or in case of health problems of the locals.

In the Company's Assessment of the impact on the environment there is no stress on possible water contamination in nearby territory as a result of mine development. It just stresses out that in the water samples the content of metals has not exceeded accepted norms.

As for the uranium presence, Stepanyan emphasized they have detected insignificant amount of uranium and was sincerely surprised, "Aren't you tired of speaking about uranium. We have sent the soil samples to the Czech Republic, radiation has been measures and it meets the strictest requirements. Two weeks ago governmental representatives and representatives from State Committee for Nuclear Safety visited and took samples, measured radiation: we are currently waiting for the result."

Stepanyan refused to answer the question of www.hra.am whether they exclude that there is uranium in the mine and it can have adverse impact on people's life.

As a reminder, in 2007 the Russian "Горный Журнал" (Mountainous Journal) scientific periodical has published the article of G.P Aloyan "Resource potential of radioactive raw materials of Armenia and its selling perspectives". Average content of uranium of Amulsar varies from one thousandth tо 0.5 %.  In the 5 explored territories of Amulsar it was calculated 76 tones of uranium. If taking into account the presence of uranium in the space of thorium, the overall stock may be calculated 100 tones.

"Geoteam" management totally denies the scientific value of the article.

The public authority responsible for this issue is the RA Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources. In their official response they stated that the measurements had not detected uranium. Instead of using own data, the Ministry referred to the exploration conducted by the order of interested party "Lydian International".

According to the data from "Ecolur" NGO, among the investors of the Amulsar project, there are two influential institutions: European Bank of Reconstruction and Development and International Finance Corporation, Member of the World Bank Group.

Karine Ionesyan

Photos of Amulsar:www.lydianinternational.co.uk
Source: www.hra.am