Blockades and revolutions: my trip to Armenia
09 August 2019
Armenian activists and UK campaigners meet at the Lydian blockade in Amulsar
Have you ever questioned who really holds the power? Our research shows that of the 100 largest economic entities in the world, 69 are corporations. But right now we have a big opportunity to confront that power – and it’s all to do with a goldmine in Armenia.
Prepared to expose the toxic plans of a Jersey-registered mining firm, in June I set off to the picturesque mountains of Armenia to find out more about the firm’s corporate court lawsuit worth $2 billion against the Armenian government.
Locals told me first-hand how the community had come together to halt the operations of mining firm Lydian, who want to build a polluting gold mine on the Amulsar mountain. For more than a year, locals have upheld a blockade that has stopped all construction on the Amulsar mine and prevented any gold from being extracted.
Blockaders spend months living at the site
But with Lydian’s plans now jeopardised, they are using the threat of corporate courts to bully the Armenian government into forcefully removing the protesters.
We can’t stand by and do nothing. Lydian’s decision on whether it will take the Armenian government to a corporate court could come any time now. In solidarity with the courageous community resistance at Amulsar, we urgently need to take action now.
No more corporate bullying – join us in saving Amulsar
The locals I spoke to at Amulsar told me that as soon as Lydian started construction on the mine in 2016, the impacts on the surrounding environment and people’s livelihoods were devastating.
I heard about how water running out of local people’s taps had turned black with mud, and how explosions from the mine coated the surrounding area with dust, stopping cattle grazing. And I learned that thousands of jobs in the nearby town of Jermuk, whose economy is reliant on health spa tourism, are now under threat.
Staff at Jermuk's spa
Fish farmer Aram Hakobyan told me that a deadly leak from Lydian’s mine killed hundreds of his fish and affected his family business:
“All the clay water from Lydian’s construction flooded into the Arpa River. All this water flowed into our fish farm. The fish had problems breathing. I quickly shot off the water from the river and switched over to the spring water supply as a temporary measure. But it’s impossible to keep going for long so 300 fish died as a result.”
What’s more, experts we met with explained that with the mine situated dangerously close to Lake Sevan, Armenia’s largest supply of fresh water, Lydian’s plans pose a threat to the entire country’s water supply.
One of the activists told me, "We used to have apricot gardens here" in Amulsar
Enough is enough. No more corporate bullying and destruction. We need to stop Lydian in their tracks and stand in solidarity with local communities at the frontline of the fight against corporate greed.
Corporate courts: a threat to democracy
I asked you earlier if you had ever questioned who really holds the power in our world. After my solidarity-trip to Armenia, I left confident that it’s us, the people. In fact, people power has achieved remarkable things in Armenia.
The blockade at Amulsar was galvanised by Armenia’s 2018 'Velvet Revolution', which overthrew years of repressive government. The revolution saw masses of people coming together to peacefully protest and successfully topple the previous autocratic regime, bringing new hope for democracy.
The revolution inspired communities surrounding the Amulsar mine to take a stand for their water, land and livelihoods. And again, they are succeeding.
But corporate greed threatens all of this. Lydian are using corporate courts to hold Armenia’s post-revolutionary government to ransom. If the Armenian government do not forcefully remove local protesters, Lydian threaten to sue them for billions of dollars.
Just in one week alone, thousands of people have signed our petition to stop Lydian in its tracks. But we need more people like you to take action if Lydian are going to take serious action.
Will you donate to help get more people behind the campaign to save Amulsar?