Armenia offers enormous mineral wealth, the mining of which has been gaining momentum in recent years. Unfortunately, heavy industry based on non-ferrous metals poses major environmental and population health risks.
Problems can arise in the vicinity of mines due to the common use of toxic chemicals. These substances and the waste resulting from mining run the risk of leaking into the surrounding soil or water. Unfortunately, the industry is reluctant to invest in security and protection processes worldwide. Our task is, therefore, to map the risks and enforce the protection of the environment and the population.
In Arnika, together with the Armenian organizations Center for Community and Mobilization Support (CCMS) and EcoLur, we have been running a campaign since 2018 to map pollution with heavy metals and other pollutants in regions affected by mining, which has a long tradition of extractive industries. We are dedicated to continuous monitoring of environmental pollution and the health of residents, especially children. We first regularly monitored pollution around mining sites in the villages of Alaverdi and Akhtala in the northern part of Lori province. The impacts of industrial activities have long burdened these sites. Residents have brought to our attention sites where accidents, leakages of polluted water, increased dust, etc., are occurring. So we concentrate our research on these problem sites, where we then collect samples. These samples are then analyzed in the Czech Republic. This provides Armenian activists with independent data and an assessment of their health and environmental status. This approach has been very successful and has already contributed to several successes. We have managed to activate local citizens, raise the profile of the pollution problem at the regional and national levels, accelerate the closure of the old ore processing plant and raise the issue of sustainable development in the region. Thanks to this experience, we have expanded our area of operation to places where mining companies are trying to expand existing deposits or open new ones. Thus, we now work not only in Lori province but also in the provinces of Aragatsotn, Gegharkunik, and Kotayk.
Thanks to the support from the Transition Promotion program of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, we can pass on the Czech experience and help secure a future without poisons in Armenia as well.
Between 2010 and 2011, we helped local civil associations in Armenia to eliminate the environmental burden of toxic substances, such as pesticides like DDT, lindane, and others. In 2009, we teamed up with the local organization Armenian Women for Health and Healthy Environment to help local farmers in the cities of Ararat and Armavir to farm sustainably without pesticides. At the same time, we mapped old environmental contamination sites with Czech chemists, and the monitoring results contributed to better protection against toxic spills into the environment.
What have we achieved in the country?
The results obtained on the level of chemical pollution in the Armenian regions affected by mining have provided demonstrable data to the people of the communities there in the fight for their rights to a clean environment. Through continuous environmental monitoring and successful population mobilization, we have improved local people's awareness of the risks and the state of the environment. A significant success was filing a class action lawsuit by seventy activists in court seeking compensation for environmental and health damages.