The Protection of Nature is the Protection of Armenia
UC Irvine’s Armenian Students’ Association hosted a lecture by the Pan-Armenian Environmental Front (PAEF) on current ecological issues in Armenia on Wednesday, Oct. 16. The central purpose of PAEF is the conservation of nature, sustainable economic development and protection of social justice and equality in Armenia.
During the discussion, guests from PAEF spoke about environmental problems faced by the residents of Armenia. They discussed the negative impacts of unregulated mining such as tailings, also known as mine dumps, which are the materials left over after the process of separating the small, but valuable fraction from the ore.
Mines such as Teghut, Artsvanik, and Agarak, are located in the Syunik Province of Armenia. They are believed to be the cause behind the region’s air, water and soil pollution, in addition to negative health consequences such as increases in respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular diseases, birth defects, cancer rates and sterility.
Syunik is the southernmost province (marz in Armenia), bordering the Republic of Nagorno-Karapagh, also referred to as Artsakh, to its east and Iran to its south.
“Syunik and Artsakh are the geographic spine of Armenia,” speaker Anna Aghlamazyan said. “We are here to say that the spine is breaking.”
“In Syunik, Teghut and Amulsar are the two most disastrous [mining] projects,” Aghlamazyan said. She explained that if these mines continue to be exploited, they will make the region uninhabitable at some point in the future.
Mining is an issue that is not unique to Armenia. Following its independence from the Soviet Union and the blockade by its neighboring countries of Turkey and Azerbaijan, Armenia faces economic difficulties.
Economically struggling countries, such as Armenia, have seen unregulated mining and other heavy industries as gateways for financial independence. However, short term economic gain could come at the expense of long term environmental and heath harm. As a result, countries like Armenia are faced with the dilemma on how to balance the need for financial benefit and environmental conservation.