Serj Tankian, world renowned musician, singer, songwriter and political activist recently released a video in which he took a firm stance against a mining project in Armenia, the notorious Amulsar mine. The dangers of this gold mine have been highlighted by the reports of several international experts who have assessed the various environmental risks related to the contamination of underground water, streams and reservoirs, you can find more details here.
Serj makes a very important point that applies not only to Armenia, but to the vast majority of mining and other extractive industries around the world. The people who are the most affected by the negative environmental effects of the mines have very little to gain from these projects, while they are the ones who have to deal with most of the damage. The concerns of the locals have largely been ignored by the government that decided to prioritize short-term economic gains while taking huge long-term risks. The mine is located not far from important touristic resorts and major water reservoirs.
Another crucial point that Serj makes is that rich countries are exporting these destructive activities to poorer countries. It’s clear that projects such as open pit mining and mountain top removal are not a healthy long-term strategies for economic growth, because of their devastating effects on the environment and their high costs to human health. For these reasons western countries have been phasing out mining, while investing in it overseas. This is also the case of the Amulsar mine, its a British company that bought the rights to develop and exploit the gold mine. Activists managed to halt the operations of the mine with their protests this summer.
Backlash against Serj’s video
I stumbled upon an article on the website of the “Public Radio of Armenia”, which quotes a letter, that was supposedly written by residents from the area, which condemns the “Save Amulsar campaign”, and criticizes Serj Tankian’s video in opposition to the Amulsar mine. The letter echoes the usual talking points that we hear from the politicians who try to justify destructive industrial projects. They ignore and dismiss the numerous environmental reports from international experts and blame the opposition against the mine on a handful of activists who are “misleading” the public and Serj Tankian. The article tries to shame Serj for expressing his views “Don’t you want to see the well-being of your compatriots?“, as if he isn’t talking about this issue precisely because he’s trying to protect the long-term interests of Armenians. The letter proceeds by painting a ridiculously dishonest comparison between the US and Armenia : “a simple search in Google will show that over 1,400 mines are operated in U.S., which is a hundred times as much as in Armenia. U.S. is one of the world’s largest gold producers.” They are presenting the facts as if Armenia is barely producing any gold and economic development of the country is being stalled by these pesky environmentalists. What they conveniently forget to mention in this comparison is that the US is more than 300 timesbigger than Armenia, which means that Armenia is having more than 3 times more gold mines per square kilometer than the U.S. And it’s true, the US is one of the largest gold producers in the world, but Armenia is producingseven times more goldthan the U.S.per square kilometer. Mining exports constitute 30% of the total exports of Armenia, just as Serj argues in his video, rich countries prefer to leave the dirty work to the poorer nations.