In the very South of Armenia, near the border with Iran, there is a little village called Lichk with around 150 inhabitants. The village, situated high in the mountains and has pristine nature and good conditions for agriculture, especially for ranching and apiculture and eco tourism, is endangered. The “Tatstoun” LLC got licenses from the Ministry of Energy of Armenia and is going to exploit an open copper mine in the village.
The environmentalists and active citizens, who are worried of this fact are raising the issue of the potential consequences, which the region and the people living there could suffer.
“The mine is going to be a little higher from the place where the reservoirs of the drinking water of Meghri region are (the Lichk is included in this region). As a result, the heavy metals which are easily diluted in environments of low acidity and the salts will be solved into the water. This means we are losing the water system”- says Hakob Sanasaryan, the head of Green Union of Armenia, adding, “There is a danger of losing and poisoning the underground waters too, because during the explosions, the heavy metals are entering the cracks of the springs, and go down to the deeper places, where the water already becomes not the substance we know. We are losing drinking waters”
The head of the village, Hovhannes Mirzoyan, says that the exploitation of the mine will create new job places for the poor settlement, though at the same time announced that he was the only one to rise against its opening when there was an open public discussion with the governor of Syunik province, Surik Khachatryan.
A doctor, a board member of Meghri’s women resource center, Nvard Khachatryan, who also has an experience of working as a medical professional in a mining company, mentions, that though there are no exact numbers, the problems with joints and autoimmune diseases are widespread among the denizens of Meghri.
It is important to mention, that due to the several horizontal climate zones, a wide variety of fruits successfully grow here, which don’t usually grow in other parts of Armenia: kiwi, pomegranate, persimmon, fig, arachis, olives and etc.
Last year, the Panarmenian Environmental Front supplied 42 beehives to the permanent inhabitants of Lichk to develop alternative economic resources in the village.
There are more than 4 open metal mines in Meghri right now, though currently only one. the “ Agarak Copper-Molybdenum Mine Complex” is being exploited. The latter, according to the mother company Geoproming processes 3.5 mt of ore per annum and is included in the list of big tax prayers of Armenia.
It is interesting that the Government of Armenia has given licenses for the exploitation of another 16 mines in this small region with only 664 km² area, and approximately 13 000 population. The head of the Green Union, Hakob Sanasaryan announces, that if all these mines are exploited, Meghri city and all its villages will simply stop existing.
According to him, the government has adopted laws, which allows the entrepreneurs not to pay taxes for mining tailings. Moreover, they make changes in the laws in a way, that it defends the interest of some families of high rank officials.