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Bern Convention Bureau Urges Halt to Mt. Amulsar Gold Mine Construction Amid Environmental Concerns

Bern Convention Bureau Urges Halt to Mt. Amulsar Gold Mine Construction Amid Environmental Concerns

The Bern Convention Bureau has issued a call for the Armenian government to immediately cease the construction of the gold mine located on Mt. Amulsar. This appeal also includes a directive to review the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the project, as highlighted in a statement by the Armenian Environmental Front volunteer initiative.

During the 43rd session held in Strasbourg from November 27 to December, the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention convened, placing the contentious issue of Amulsar on its agenda. The Bern Convention stands as a significant international conservation instrument binding all member states of the Council of Europe, including Armenia. Consequently, the convention's obligations hold legal force for the Armenian government.

The committee's recommendations and observations from the session have brought crucial environmental concerns to light. Notably, they highlight the potential detrimental impact of the Amulsar gold mine on habitats and protected species, emphasizing recent findings concerning the reemergence of the critically endangered Persian Leopard and other biodiversity discoveries in the region.

Among the crucial directives, the committee called upon Armenian authorities to reassess the current ESIA in light of recent biodiversity revelations, local scientific expertise, and potential transboundary effects. Additionally, it urged expedited steps to designate Jermuk National Park, encompassing the Amulsar mountain, a process initiated in 2012 but still pending.

Expressing concern over reductions in the territory of the Emerald Network in Armenia, including the area housing the Amulsar mine, the committee stressed the importance of preserving these protected areas for the sufficiency of the pan-European Network of Protected Areas.

Another key recommendation was a stronger inclusion of civil society in Amulsar and Emerald Network-related processes, emphasizing transparency and open dialogue over closed-door decision-making.

The committee also voiced unease about strategic litigations against public participation (SLAPPs) targeting critics opposing the project, highlighting a need to protect independent experts, lawyers, and journalists.

Notably, the Bern Convention refrained from an immediate on-the-spot appraisal (OSA) due to ongoing assurances from the Armenian government. However, they set a deadline for 2024 to reassess the situation, urging progress reports from both the government and complainants regarding the Amulsar Gold mine and the revision of candidate Emerald sites in Armenia.

For detailed decisions and texts adopted during the 43rd Session, including specific references to Armenia and Amulsar, interested parties can refer to page 20, Clauses 181-189, on the Council of Europe's website.

This latest call by the Bern Convention Bureau marks a crucial juncture, obliging the Armenian government to adhere to international law by halting mining activities on Mt. Amulsar and conducting a meticulous, science-based reassessment of environmental and social impacts—an aspect the mining license holder previously neglected.


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