Teghut is a village in the Tavush region. Teghut is famous for its thousands of acres of virgin forest and rich ecosystem in Northern Armenia, is home to hundreds of species of birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and plants, including many that are registered in the International Red Book of Endangered Species.
Armenian Copper Program (ACP), with approval from Armenia’s Ministry of Nature Protection, plans to clear-cut over 1,500 acres of Teghut's forest in order to establish an open pit strip mining operation for copper and molybdenum ore. In addition, ACP plans to create a “tailing dump” in a nearby pristine gorge, where heavy metals and other toxins from mining waste will leach into the ground and into the river flowing through the gorge, ultimately contaminating the local water supply.
What do we know about Armenian Copper Program’s track record? ACP owns the infamous Alaverdi Smelter, which processes copper ore for a consortium of mining companies in the region. The Alaverdi smelter, notorious for belching tens of thousands of tons of sulfur oxides annually into the atmosphere, is having disastrous effects on the health and well-being of the local population, and on the ecosystem from acid rain. Since the smelter’s re-opening in the late 1990's, the town of Alaverdi has seen a dramatic increase in the number of reported cases of respiratory disease, sterility, and severe birth defects. The smelter has no emission controls, and the company claims to be unable to afford the cost of installing them.
ACP's initial plans for developing and exploiting the Teghut mine have received enthusiastic approval by the Ministry of Nature Protection, despite the fact that they will destroy one of Armenia's most treasured landscapes and clear cut a forest in a nation with less than 8% forest cover. According to Armenian law, mining in Teghut cannot begin until a detailed environmental impact assessment is completed and approved by government bodies. We have great concern that this assessment -- regardless of its results -- will be used to expedite the mining plans, due to the huge sums of money involved.
ACP claims that the Armenian government will receive $8 million per year in taxes and payments in return for the right to exploit this mine. But are we to allow Armenia’s precious forest to be destroyed, the surrounding rivers and springs to be contaminated, and the agricultural lands adjacent to the mine to be poisoned for short-term economic gains for so few?
- Rather than destroy the Teghut Forest, we propose that it be made into a nature reserve as part of a concerted effort to develop sustainable tourism in the valley. Tourism is a sustainable form of economic development that benefits the local population without causing permanent damage to the environment. Teghut could attract people from around the world who want to see the rich landscape, biodiversity, and cultural heritage that is unique to this area.
- Save Teghut - coalition to save Teghut forest