After strong backlash from environmental activists and the public, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced Wednesday that his government was mulling another possible audit of the environmental impact of excavating a gold mine in Amulsar in the Vayots Dzor Province of Armenia. Pashinyan sent a recently released report to Armenia’s Environmental Protection Ministry, which will recommend whether a new audit is warranted.
Public criticism of the Amulsar mine project escalated Monday when Pashinyan gave the green light for the excavation of the mine, after the Lebanon-based ELARD company submitted results of its environmental impact audit, which deemed that the operation of the gold mine in Amulsar would not pose ecological and environmental hazards to residents of the nearby resort town of Jermuk and surrounding communities, including Lake Sevan.
He said the environmental protection ministry is tasked to determine “whether or not the conclusion [of the ELARD audit] contains information, which according to Armenia’s laws, require the need for a new environmental impact assessment for the operation of the Amulsar mine.”
After holding a series of meeting on Wednesday that included representatives of Lydian International, the British-American company that was grated the contract for the mine several years ago, Pashinyan took to Facebook to explain that all parties were set to move forward with the excavation at Amulsar, until a representative from the environmental protection ministry called for a more detailed study of the ELARD report, prompting the prime minister to task the ministry for a final conclusion.
“I was already about to end the consultation when a representative of the environmental protection ministry said that he nevertheless believes that the question should be answered after a more deeper study. After that I tasked the staff to forward the ELARD conclusion to the ministry with a specific task,” Pashinyan said in a Facebook Live post.
When green lighting the mining project on Monday, Pashinyan said the standards by which the project will move forward, will force other mining companies to elevate their standards.
”In the event that Amulsar is developed under existing conditions, it will be developed under unprecedented environmental standards for the Republic of Armenia,” said Pashinyan on Monday adding that the so-called high standards would force other mining companies to reform their practices.
“Now the government has to go to the low-level mines and tell them that they should elevate their operations to [comply with] the new standards. This is a political obligation,” Pashinyan said Monday. “Now the companies that are operating in lower levels will be forced to spend tens of millions of dollars elevate their standards and the government has the levers to force those companies to do so.”