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CAMPAIGNERS have hit out at Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan after he caved under pressure to approve a controversial gold mine in the south of the country.
He made the announcement in a broadcast on state television on Tuesday evening in a major blow to environmental campaigners who have been pressing for the deal, signed before Mr Pashinyan came to power last year, to be scrapped.
Environmental activists have subjected the gold mine in Amulsar to a permanent blockade since the middle of 2018, grinding construction to a halt.
They are concerned over the ecological and social impact of the mine, particularly the potential contamination of Armenia’s water supply.
Geologists warned that the chemicals used in the mining process could lead to acid water contaminating nearby Lake Sevan, the largest freshwater lake in the region.
Initial construction work has already caused local residential water supplies and nearby rivers to become contaminated.
Following the so-called revolution that swept him to power and brought an end to decades of corruption, Mr Pashinyan commissioned a review of the process that led to the mine’s approval.
But Lydian International, the company behind the mine which is registered in the tax-haven of Jersey, threatened a $2 billion claim against the Armenian government in an international corporate court.
Such courts allow countries to sue governments over decisions that might hit their profits.
While the Armenian government review cited a number of concerns over the mine’s impact, Mr Pashinyan said it could go ahead with some mitigating steps.
Global Justice Now spokesman James Angel warned that the courts “crush democracy” and urged Lydian to drop its “toxic mining” plans.
War on Want spokeswoman Liz McKean accused the company of “holding the Armenian government to ransom until it backs down.”
“The Armenian government should be able to listen to its people, who do not want this mine, and the UK should get rid of corporate courts,” she said.
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