UK Foreign Office criticised for supporting controversial gold mine in Armenia
In a fierce dispute between mine owners and local people in Armenia, the UK has weighed in – on the side of the international mining company.
-In 2018, Armenia underwent its “Velvet Revolution”, which saw a mass protest movement force a kleptocratic regime out of power
-Armenia’s revolution has had other effects, such as blockades over a flagship $400 million gold mining project run by mining company Lydian International
-New documents released under Freedom of Information laws show the UK Foreign Office’s private engagement in support of Lydian International
The UK Foreign Office has been criticised by a British MP and international campaigners for its support of a controversial mining company in Armenia, openDemocracy reports today.
New information released under the Freedom of Information Act shows frequent contacts between the UK Foreign Office and Lydian International, the company behind the flagship Amulsar gold mining project in the South Caucasus state. These releases shine a light on campaigners’ concerns about the ties between the mining company and the British embassy in Armenia.
The records, obtained by openDemocracy, reveal how British embassy staff in the Armenian capital Yerevan, including ambassadors, were in regular contact with Lydian International about its Amulsar gold mine from 2013 to 2018. They arranged presentations, seminars, meetings, working groups and project updates. For example, the records list 55 contacts between January and July 2018 between Lydian International and the embassy.
An index of internal communications for 2018, also obtained by openDemocracy, shows how the embassy has followed Amulsar since Armenia’s ‘Velvet Revolution’ put the $400 million mine at the forefront of the country’s politics.
The list details document titles such as “Lydian updates draft”, “Questions for the Ambassador”, “Meeting with Acting PM Pashinyan key points” and “Readout of meeting with Lydian”, recording, for example, seven internal embassy documents relating to Lydian produced in September 2018. That month, the Armenian government ordered an assessment of the effect the gold mining operation would have on the country’s water resources, as well as an independent review of Lydian’s environmental impact assessment.
Armenian environmental campaigners have raised concerns about this relationship, writing open letters about ambassadors’ conduct to the UK Foreign Office in 2013 and 2019.
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