Armenia Tree Project Distributes Action Alert to Save Teghut Forest
The village of Teghut, with its acres of virgin forest and rich ecosystem in northern Armenia, is home to hundreds of species of birds, mammals, reptiles, fish, and plants, including many that are registered in the International Red Book of Endangered Species.
Armenian Copper Program (ACP) has plans to clear-cut 1,500 acres of this forest in order to establish an open pit strip mining operation for copper and molybdenum ore. In addition, ACP plans to create a “tailing dump” in a nearby gorge, where heavy metals and other toxins from mining waste will leach into the ground and into the river flowing through the gorge, ultimately contaminating the water supply.
Two years ago, Armenia Tree Project (ATP) and a number of organizations and individuals worked together to save the Shikahogh Nature Reserve in southern Armenia from destruction, and now the organization is joining environmentalists and friends in Armenia and in the Diaspora to save Teghut Forest.
On June 20, ATP issued an action alert by email to thousands of its supporters and colleagues, urging them to send letters to President Robert Kocharian to convince him to protect this national treasure from destruction at the hands of a mining company.
“What do we know about Armenian Copper Program’s track record? ACP owns the Alaverdi Smelter, which processes copper ore for a consortium of mining companies in the region,” states ATP Executive Director Jeff Masarjian in the appeal. “The Alaverdi smelter, notorious for belching tens of thousands of tons of sulfur oxides annually into the atmosphere, is having disastrous effects on the health and well-being of the local population.”
Since the smelter’s re-opening in the late 1990’s, the town of Alaverdi has seen a dramatic increase in the number of reported cases of respiratory disease, sterility, and birth defects. The smelter has no emission controls, and the company claims to be unable to afford the cost of installing them.
ACP’s initial plans for developing and exploiting the Teghut mine have received approval by the Ministry of Nature Protection, despite the fact that they will destroy one of Armenia’s most treasured landscapes and clear cut a forest in a nation with less than eight percent forest cover.
“ATP is a member of SOS Teghut, a consortium of 26 organizations that supports the need for sustainable economic development in the country, but opposes development that will leave the land permanently degraded and poisoned,” continues Masarjian. “ACP claims that the government will receive $8 million per year in taxes and payments in return for the right to exploit this mine. But are we to allow Armenia’s precious forest to be destroyed, the surrounding rivers and springs to be contaminated, and the agricultural lands adjacent to the mine to be poisoned for short-term economic gains?”
“Rather than destroy the Teghut Forest, we propose that it be made into a Nature Reserve as part of a concerted effort to develop sustainable tourism in the valley. Tourism is a sustainable form of economic development that benefits the local population without causing permanent damage to the environment. Teghut could attract people from around the world who want to see the rich landscape, biodiversity, and cultural heritage that is unique to this area,” concludes Masarjian in the appeal.
Below is the letter that was sent to President Kocharian as part of the Teghut Forest Action Alert: