MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Armenia - digging a deep hole in search of uranium

Published by MAC on 2010-12-27
Source: Armenia Now,

Uranium prospecting in an Armenian village is continuing, despite resistance by local people and warnings of serious ecological disaster should mining proceed.

Previous MAC post: Armenians up in arms against uranium plans

For discussion of recent developments in uranium mining in Armenia, go to the blog:

Dangerous mining: A deep hole is dug in search of uranium in Lernadzor

Armenia Now

6 December 2010

In spite of public discontent and pickets, the prospecting work for uranium continued in the village of Lernadzor, Kapan, and a 140-meter-deep bore-hole has already been mined.

While the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources of Armenia said that the prospecting work was safe and ore samples would be taken from no more than 20-centimeter depth, but the mined deep bore-hole, according to specialists, is already seriously dangerous.

"Digging of the bore means that ore samples are taken out to the surface. They may contain uranium, and be dangerous to people and the environment," says Karine Danielyan, Chairwoman of ‘For Sustainable Human Development' NGO, a member of the Public Council of Armenia.

In spite of serious pickets and protests, held in Kapan in November, when about 11,000 signatures were collected against the (uranium exploitation) program, the government and the Armenian-Russian Mining Company CJSC did not halt the uranium program, giving assurances that it would be safe.

Meanwhile, specialists insist that even if the uranium extraction is done using modern, safe, technologies, the uranium mine exploitation will result in a serious ecological disaster.

"The exploitation of the copper-molybdenum mine in the Syunik province has already seriously damaged the ecology, and in the case with uranium, we simply tell people to leave the nearby territory," Danielyan says.

According to environmentalist Danielyan, the uranium program is dangerous even in case if the mine works are held underground, something that specialists of the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources of Armenia assured.

"First of all, there is no experience of closed-pit mining in Armenia, and international specialists say that the current technologies do not secure a non-pollution exploitation of uranium mines. Even if the works are held underground, the crust of the earth and the underground waters will be polluted, and it is very dangerous, too," Danielyan says.

Aravot: Piece of uranium exploration equipment caught fire in Lernadzor village in Armenia

30 October 2010

On October 29, equipment intended for geological explorations for uranium caught fire in Lernadzor village, Syunik Marz, southern Armenia. The equipment was taken to the village a couple of days ago, Aravot daily reports.

The details of the incident are not disclosed. According to rumors, in the morning the villagers learnt that the drilling technique had caught fire. "We learnt what had happened only in the morning. The prospecting equipment is far from our houses, on the other side of the village. So the fire was not visible from our houses, taking into account it broke out at night," the local residents said.

Experts conducting explorations prevented journalists from taking photos of the burnt equipment. They told the reporters they can take photos and get information only at the presence of their manager, who was heading from Yerevan to Lernadzor.

The reporters could take a photo of the burnt piece of prospecting equipment at a distance. Officers of Investigation Department in Syunik region, policemen and experts were working at the accident site. No official information is available yet.

Lernadzor: Living in uncertainty

Armenia Now

27 May 2010

Lernadzor is some 340 km south of Yerevan, 20 km from Kapan (capital of Syunik province), and some six km from Kajaran, where one of the industrial giants of the province - Kajaran Copper-Molybdenum Plant is located. Unlike remote villages of Armenia, where the unemployment has high indexes, there is no such threat in Lernadzor. Seventy percent of the village's population works at the plant.

Armenian-Russian Mining Organization CJSC has the monopoly of uranium resources research and uranium mines exploitation in the whole territory of Armenia. The research works started on August 5, 2009, and they will last until August 23, 2014.

The agreement granted to the company by the RA Ministry of Natural Protection, has not passed public hearings, even though in 2001 Armenia ratified the Aarhus Convention, defining participation of the public in issues of ecological concern.

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