Minister Movsisyan assures that uranium mining is safe as long as it is done right and with modern technology.
The ongoing geological and prospecting work for uranium in Armenia’s southern Syunik province continues to worry both environmentalists and the local population. But the energy minister, who himself hails from the area, says uranium mining is safe if done properly and will only benefit the province economically.
The studies being conducted by the Armenian-Russian Mining Company CJSC will continue until August 2014. But this week the council of elders in the town of Kapan turned to the National Assembly and the Government and urged them to cancel the uranium prospecting work in Syunik.
Talking to ArmeniaNow, Kapan-based Khustup Environmental NGO President Vladik Martirosyan said that even without uranium mines the area faces serious environmental problems connected with the local mining industry. In his view, developing uranium mines is senseless for a small country like Armenia.
The field which is being looked into is located in-between the towns of Kapan and Kajaran, in the close vicinity of the village of Lernadzor, near the river Voghji. Environmentalists say this location only magnifies the environmental risks.
But Energy and Natural Resources Minister Armen Movsisyan says that the noise raised by environmentalists and the media is ill-founded.
“Only prospecting work is being carried out today. Then, there will be geological work, drilling activities should be conducted to see if uranium is present there and if it is, then in what quantity; one should determine what technologies are the most effective for the extraction of the available quantity. If we knew all that, we would be already developing it and wouldn’t be undertaking all these researches,” says the minister.
Movsisyan says if they confirm the mine is good for an economically and technologically effective development, they will keep the public informed of this news immediately.
Tigran Stepanyan, who heads the Civic Society Development Center in Syunik, believes it is time to take to the streets and voice strong opposition in this matter.
“Even the research on the site should not be allowed. Let them not come close to this area with such a matter at all,” Stepanyan told ArmeniaNow.
Minister Movsisyan explains that uranium mining does not cause safety problems if done with modern technology and that radiation dangers arise during enrichment rather than during extraction.
Khustup NGO’s Martirosyan responds to this by saying: “[Contaminated] waters will enter the river Voghji, which will contaminate the entire territory up to the river Arax. Syunik is the backbone of Armenia, its southern gate. Intelligent people know they cannot live here and expose their lives to danger in conditions of uranium mine development.”
But Movsisyan argues that the areas where prospecting for uranium is conducted have no underground waters.
“No matter how deep you drill in Syunik, you won’t find water. Drilling for mining purposes there goes 1,500-2,000 meters deep and there is still no water there… Water takes the lowest point and flows away,” says the minister. “I am a native of Kapan. I know the problems very well. I’m concerned with this matter more than anyone else. But it is one thing if we fail to mine uranium properly, and quite another thing if we do it right.”