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Mayor of Gndevaz: “The villagers will prefer that the Company takes the land”

It was announced recently, that the Government of Armenia and Geoteam (and the 100% shareholder of the Company- Lydian International) have come to a preliminary agreement on the location of the project’s Heap Leach Facility. The new location is 4 km towards South-West, 7 km away from the pits.

The mayor of Gndevaz Hayrapet Mkrtchyan told “” that the –new location should not be an issue for the villagers. “We don’t have neither agriculture, nor grazing areas. We have some topsoil there but it is not fertile and not important for the villagers. They will prefer that the Company takes the land”

H.Mkrtchyan stated that the community is not against the mine, on the contrary- they are very positive about it, because the Company supports the community greatly in terms of jobs and social issues.

The mayor commented that in April this year he, together with his neighbors- the mayors of Saravan and Gorayk visited the US to see larger mines in production using similar Heap leaching technologies. “If the same technical level is used in our case, I will be positive about it. We saw it was all good in the US. There were mines a few meters away from the communities, almost adjacent to the communities and the communities had 5000 residents and everything was fine, we saw no dust, no noise, and the standards were kept.”

One of the mines the mayors visited is the Cripple Creek & Victor mine in Colorado, US. It belongs to AngloGold Ashanti that has around 20 mines in North and South America, Australia, Russia and elsewhere employing around 60.000 people. Cripple Creek & Victor, for example, employs 560 people: The mine is around 25 km away from Colorado Springs, famous for its spring waters, 5-10 km away from several natural lakes and reservoirs and the Cripple Creek town, with some 2000 residents is less than 1.5 km away. The community has existed next to this mine for more than 100 years. Cripple Creek town “I have seen this Heap leaching in the US. We have been to 2 mines and if the technology is kept the same here, there will be no issues”, the mayor of Gorayk Arustam Arustamyan commented.

According to him, the technology is strictly guarded in the US and most importantly, great attention is paid to the environmental issues. Arustamyan mentioned, that the communities were pretty close to the Heap Leach Facility where the technological process involves using cyanide. “People lived close to the mine and they were involved in the gold processing. Wild and domestic animals were in the same territory with humans. That’s what I saw there. If the Facility was placed in the center of Yerevan it wouldn’t have caused any problem if they keep the same high standard technology. Guarding the technology is what’s important.” Arustamyan emphasized that it is designed so that the buildings can stand a 9.5 magnitude earthquake likewise in Turkey, the same kind of mine was not damaged by the recent earthquake.

The Turkish Kisladag gold mine belongs to Canadian Eldorado Gold Company which like Lydian International, (a 100% shareholder of Geoteam) is listed on the Toronto stock exchange. The mine has been operated since 2006 and since then has produced more than 1.5 millon ounces of gold through heap leaching method. “My co-villagers are waiting for mine operation. If that does not happen they will leave the village and it will be empty. This project is a job opportunity for them to work, live and not turn out in the streets. This year the mine construction was delayed. Almost 28 people left for Russia to sustain their families. Of course they will be back again if the mine operates soon”, mentioned A.Arustamyan. Saravan mayor Simon Babayan has also shared a positive opinion about Geoteam work and noted that around 25 to 30 people from the village work for the company, which involves training and high salaries which gives them reason to not migrate. Babayan explained that during the US visit besides operating mines they were also shown examples of closed and rehabilitated mines and saw how the operation and technologies had had no impact on how the land was used afterwards. “In the US we have had conversations with people from neighboring villages; one village was 100-150 year old and was established purely for the mine. People spoke very positively.

I have even asked one 73 year old woman if the mines have affected them at all and her response was no, the only impacts have been positive for everyone If Amulsar will be operated in the same way as we saw here the region will have a highly positive benefit, the migration will reduce, people will not leave, people who migrated to Moscow, Khazakhstan, will be back if the mine is operated”, mentioned S.Babayan. The Environmental and Social manager of Geoteam CJSC, Dr. Armen Stepanyan, who accompanied the mayors to the US, told us that Heap leaching began in the US, but is now seen worldwide in places such as North and South America, Russia, Australia, Canada and elsewhere. “As for cyanide, firstly- cyanide is not new to Armenia and has been used in other gold recovery technologies with numerous companies, the solution used in heap leaching is very dilute. Cyanide is used in many countries, including in Europe, US and Canada. Moreover, only about 6% of the world production of cyanide is used in mining, the rest is used in many other industries. The best guarantee of safe management of cyanide is compliance with the International Cyanide Code, which Lydian is committed to comply with. It is also important to mention that heap leaching does not produce tailings and after the end of production it can be fully recultivated”, – Armen Stepanyan assured. He also added that “Geoteam” had taken the three mayors to the US so that they can see a modern mine and be certain that if managed correctly you can have an industry in line with all environmental standards.

Article by Gayane Khachatryan