JERMUK, Armenia, June 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Tonnes of gold that lie under a snow-capped mountain in Armenia have locked locals and international investors in a bitter land dispute, with the country’s new government being watched closely in coming weeks as it tries to resolve the conflict.
For almost a year, protesters worried about potential damage to the environment have blocked access to works to complete a mine that its Anglo-American operator says would generate hundreds of jobs and millions in tax revenue for the state.
But their protests have angered some locals eager for jobs in the remote, mountainous region, with mining firm Lydian International saying it has had to axe more than 1,000 jobs and lost more than $60 million since the blockade began.
With a government-commissioned assessment into the mine’s environmental impact expected to be released within weeks, international investors were said to be watching closely to see how Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan handled the dispute.
“There are more valuable things than gold,” said Gagik Margaryan, one of a few dozen residents of the southern town of Jermuk and nearby villages that have taken turns since last June to watch over Amulsar, the mountain overlooking their homes.