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Armenian Villagers Set Precedent by Boycotting Public Hearings on Mining Project: Discussion

Residents of the village of Ardvi in Armenia’s Lori province are distressed over the fact that MIRAM company plans to begin gold-polymetallic mining operations at the mountain Shekaghbyur, thereby endangering human health as well as the environment. The local population is adamant that the Shekaghbyur project is not implemented.

“We learned about the issue from media reports in July. We read that they had held the second public hearings on the project; meanwhile, the residents were not even aware of the fact that there had been any prior hearings. The villagers were outraged by this. It’s absurd that they would hold hearings without even notifying us,” Suren Kirakosyan, a villager from Ardvi, said in conversation with Epress.am.

Environmentalists Levon Galstyan, in turn, pointed out that the mining field in Armenia is fraught with legal problems: “Even if the entire population of the village takes part in the hearings and says they are against the project, it will leave no significant or negative impact on the final assessment of the project.”

Environmentalist Anna Shahnazaryan, meanwhile, believes that the protest movement that has emerged in Ardvi sets a precedent in Armenia: “I was very surprised; I had never seen such a thing before. People were boycotting not only the mining project itself but also the public hearings. These public hearings are essential for discussing in particular environmental issues. Mining projects usually have foreign sponsors, and these sponsors always make sure to ask whether those undertaking these operations have informed the public about the consequences, including the negative ones, of the project and received their consent. Right now therefore we have the power to at least boycott these hearings, which means that they will have nothing to report back to the sponsors.”

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