– Is it true that Lydian Armenia is planning to layoff 1500 people?
As Lydian announce since June, the Company won’t be able to sustain its workforce, without being able to access the site and continue construction. Our shareholders invested in Armenia to finance a modern mine construction and operation based on the highest standards in the mining industry. Shareholders’ investment also provided for over 1400 Lydian and contractor companies’ employees. The illegal blockages are an obstacle for the company to continue its normal operations. Unfortunately this has resulted in layoffs of almost 300 Lydian employees and over 1000 contractor employees in the last 3 months. This week another 100 people have received a 2-month prior layoff notice. And unless the situation changes, these people too will be let go. These illegal blockades have already created serious socio-economic consequences in the region and significant foreign investment reductions for the country.
– Do you agree with the charge brought against you according to which 18 mln damage was caused by the company? What are you going to do?
As you know, the Ministry of Nature Protection has already repudiated the claims by the State Environmental and Mining Inspection about “new ecological factors” based on which the Inspection recommended the Ministry to suspend our operating license. After a second visit to Amulsar the experts concluded that the Red listed butterfly did not hibernate and breed at Amulsar and the plant they found was not a Red listed species. So the Ministry refused to acknowledge these factors as a base for suspending the license. Our lawyers are now dealing with the other accusation on the alleged damage, which, BTW, is not a base for questioning the license in any event. However, I want to note, that the State Inspection acted recklessly and behaved irresponsibly by making assertions that were false..
– PM Pashinyan suggested to create trilateral mechanism including activists, government and the company representatives to overcome this situation during his visit to Jermuk in the beginning of July. Do you have any progress or Pashinyan’s suggestion remained on a rhetoric level?
To my understanding, apart from the State Audits, a working group consisting mainly of activists and very few experts was formed. The Company was not invited to participate in this process, apart from a few meetings. So this was not a tri-lateral process.We received reports authored by all audit participants members.. Few of the reports, authored by some experts in mining, have reasonable comments and we have responded to those. The others, authored by activists, are quite like most of their interviews and speeches- no evidence, no science, no substance. Unfortunately. We understand that there are people that have a negative opinion about the mining industry . However, unless we have a knowledgeable and science-based debate, perception about mining will be emotionally driven by these groups and mining practice in the country will not be encouraged to align its operating practice with best practices associated with mining companies that show responsible and compliant operations.
– How do you evaluate the position of the Government regarding the situation around Lydian Armenia in general, taking into account that the company has applied many times to PM to solve the situation?
I believe that the situation around Amulsar is certainly not helpful in presenting Armenia as a law-abiding and stable country for investments. Roads to the largest investment project of the country have been illegally blocked for the fourth month by a group of people with dubious agendas and source of financing. There is a very tense situation in the communities. The law enforcement bodies are doing nothing to restore the rule of law and to investigate the criminal elements behind these actions. This, by any means, can’t be considered a normal or acceptable situation and I believe this is very harmful for the country.
– Deputy prime minister promised Lydian’s employees to give an answer during 15 days on August 13. Have you received any answer and what is it?
The roads are still closed by a dozen people. I am not aware of any further communication between our workforce from the communities and the DPM’s office. I am aware that the community members have once again met the DPM’s office representatives. Yesterday I learnt that over 100 community members went to demand the re-opening of the roads to the Head of the Vayots Dzor region’s office. No solution to my understanding, was offered to these people.
– Are you going to file a claim against the protests and over the Police inaction during the clashes? Particularly the police did nothing during the clashes on August 27?
Yes, our lawyers have already filed a complaint. We hope that the rule of law will prevail – but time will tell.
– How do you estimate the damage of the company since the start of protest?
I can’t give you precise numbers, as it’s up to the lawyers and experts to calculate, but you can imagine we are talking about substantial financial losses. It is the company’s intention to bring those responsible for these significant losses to account.
– Is it possible that Lydian will leave Armenia taking into account the current development of the situation?
Lydian has a legal right to operate. All our permits are legal, valid and meet all the requirements of the Armenian and International law. I also believe Lydian has been a role model in terms of environmental management. Both legally and from the environmental point of view the project and the company comply fully with the Armenian and International law. You also realize that we have legal obligations towards our shareholders. I do not know what do you mean by “leave”, but if the Company continues to be deprived of the right to operate, clearly it will have serious consequences. That is the last thing we all, Lydian employees and devoted citizens of Armenia want. We want to build a modern, responsible and well-managed operation but if the circumstances force the Company, it will use all available options to defend its rights.