Press Release: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Yerevan, March 24th, 2014
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The participants of the “Irresponsible Mining in Armenia” alter-conference, consider the “Responsible Mining in Armenia: Opportunities and Challenges” conference to be an attempt to legitimize the widespread pillage of Armenia’s natural resources and an effort to disguise the catastrophic effects of mining on human health and the environment. Mining in Armenia is generally carried out by foreign corporations with the backing of the Armenian Government.
Therefore, they have prepared a STATEMENT which will be presented to the participants of the conference in the premises of Armenia Marriott Hotel and afterwards will be discussed at the Alter-Conference held in the open space outside Armenia Marriott Hotel.
Please see the full text of the Statement below.
On the occasion of the conference “Responsible Mining in Armenia: Opportunities and Challenges”
Yerevan, March 25
We, the participants of the “Irresponsible Mining in Armenia” alter-conference, consider the “Responsible Mining in Armenia: Opportunities and Challenges” conference to be an attempt to legitimize the widespread pillage of Armenia’s natural resources and an effort to disguise the catastrophic effects of mining on human health and the environment. Mining in Armenia is generally carried out by foreign corporations with the backing of the Armenian Government.
The “Responsible Mining” conference is organized by the RA Government and the World Bank, with the support of the EBRD as well as the US, British, German and Canadian Embassies. Mining companies from these countries are currently exploiting or planning to exploit mines in Armenia.
Specifically, the British Lydian International Ltd, registered offshore in Jersey, continues to push for the exploitation of Amulsar gold mine, with the backing from the IFC and the EBRD. It is noteworthy, that exactly these financial corporations and mining companies will be speaking of “international best practices and responsible mining” at the conference, without any assessment of human rights violations, the rise in poverty and the devastating impact on the health of the population as a result of mining in Armenia. Despite civil society’s participation in the conference, the list of organizers and the agenda of the conference suggests that it cannot be considered neutral, scientific or balanced.
- Mining is declared the main priority area for economic development in Armenia for the following reasons:
○ it is the easiest method to maximize profit with minimal investment
○ it is minimally regulated
○ due to mining companies’ offshore registrations, there is a lack of transparency
○ it does not stipulate liability for damages caused
○ in comparison to other countries, Armenia has a very low tax base
○ it provides huge profits for only the few rich
○ it is easy to engage in corruption and demand bribes in this area
- No alternatives to mining or clean development mechanisms are promoted in the country
- The mining companies are guided by self-interest alone and will not adopt “responsible” actions unless specifically stipulated by the legislation. As the current legislation does not provide for such a framework, (the WB uses its “soft” power in the development, modification and regulation of the laws), voluntary compliance appears to be the only option. Without measures to enforce compliance, it is unclear how effective a ‘responsible’ mining approach can be.
- More than 70% of Armenia’s natural resources are currently licensed to be exploited – this includes 84% of the metal mines and 64 % of the non-metal mines
- According to official statistics, the poverty rate is at 36% (measured at all individuals living on less than $3 USD a day)
- There are no effective mechanisms to ensure the public’s decisive participation in the decision-making processes, particularly in relation to mining projects, and to safeguard community property and the right to live in a healthy and safe environment
- State allocations for health services are diminishing and many of the diseases resulting from environmental degradation are not covered by the State health program. Moreover, the overall health situation in the country is deteriorating
- No mining companies or public officials have ever been convicted of unlawful activities, such as scam or corruption.
Given that none of these issues will be discussed at the conference, we believe that the conference serves the purpose of disguising the current realities and challenges.
Instead, we demand the following:
For the RA Government
- To stop all mining projects that have been granted mining permits but have not yet started the actual extraction, specifically the following metal mines - Teghut, Amulsar, Meghradzor, Svarants, Bardzradir, Tashtun, etc.
- To ensure transparency in the operation of the currently exploited mines; oblige the mining companies to modernize their technology; to increase taxes, specifically on taxes on tailings and for environmental impact; to provide health insurance for mine employees as well for residents in the immediate zone of influence of the mines
- To carry out strict financial control and oversight of mining companies
- To ensure a fair redistribution of profits from mining among the current and future generations, through creation of a sovereign fund for generations, carrying out strict taxation policy, ensuring state shares in the mines, etc.
- To stop all mining projects by companies registered in offshore zones and to bring them all under the national legal framework so as to ensure public access to information
- To grant the communities living adjacent and impacted by mines with mechanisms for full and decisive participation in the approval of mining projects
- To create effective safeguards for community oversight over mining projects
- To establish holistic measures for cost-benefit analysis, including legislative guarantees for ecosystem services evaluation
- To require discussion of alternative economic opportunities while considering mining projects
- To conduct an assessment of the environmental impact caused by mining companies so far and oblige compensation for the damages caused
- To introduce the principle that the “polluter pays” and establish high fees for mining waste
- To cooperate with the RA Prosecution to ensure examination of reports by the public on crimes in relation to environmental safety and mining and to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable.
Demands for International Financial Corporations
- For the World Bank, to conduct an audit of its 20-year engagement in Armenia and an assessment of its role in Armenia’s development; particularly in relation to its support to legislative initiatives and specifically the new Mining Code, including its human development outcomes, and to present the findings to the public
- To rule out the possibility of funding new mining projects (specifically the Amulsar gold mine) in Armenia
- To provide financial assistance only to clean and sustainbale development projects
Demands for the Diplomatic representatives/missions in Armenia
- To stop interventions into mining processes in Armenia and patronage of private entities from their own countries
- To stop pressuring the RA government for the benefit of mining companies
- To maintain absolute neutrality and pursue the aims of friendship between nations and well-being for peoples around the globe.