The Foreign Ministry's report writes that the exploitation of the natural resources accompanied by associated ecological disasters, such as tailing dumps and water pollution, has reached such a fast and unobstructed pace that even Armenia-based environmental organizations, including the Pan-Armenian Environmental Front (PAEF), raised red flag.
In 2012, Armenian journalist Armine Narinyan reported about death of fish in the Sarsang reservoir resulting from a leak of cyanides from the ore processing plant near Heyvaly.
The area sits on an earthquake fault line, so as a result of a potential earthquake or some other natural or manmade hazard toxic wastes from the structurally unsafe tailings at the dump could easily spill into the water reservoir.
The report also evidences that waters of the rivers in Armenia's Syunik district, polluted with wastes from the Kapan Ore Processing Plant and Zangezour Copper and Molybdenum Combine and Artsvanik tailing dump, flow into the trans-boundary Okhchuchay River, which in turn flows into the occupied Zangilan district and the Araz River, thus creating environmental risks for numerous downstream urban and rural communities in Azerbaijan.
Environmentally irresponsible exploitation of natural resources in Nagorno-Karabakh caused a blast of criticism even from media outlets in Armenia. Hetq
, for instance, wrote in December 2020 about Base Metals CJSC, a member of Armenian conglomerate Vallex Group (a major player in Armenia's mining sector), which had for many years provided up to 35% of all payments to the budget of unrecognized "NKR".
Once other copper deposits in Karabakh got depleted, Base Metals launched the development of Kashen copper and molybdenum deposit not far from Agdere in 2013. The company's previous project, a gold and copper mine near Heyvaly (dubbed "Drmbon" by Armenians) 40 km away from Kashen, had been fully depleted over 10 years of operation.
A bright example of Vallex Group's poor environmental image is the history of Teghut mine they developed in the north of Armenia, close to the Georgian border.
Following numerous protest actions, the company's environmental noncompliance resulted in one of foreign lenders terminated co-financing of the project; in 2017, Denmark's Export Credit Agency (EKF) decided to withdraw the loan
they had previously issued to Teghut mine operator, accusing them of failure to comply with environmental standards.
In its statement, EKF cites issues with pollution of water in the area, seismic stability of the tailing dump, and poor labor conditions. Hetq also reported some 140 hectares of forest chopped down around the mine. The website quotes Davit Tadevosyan, the public relations officer of Vallex, according to whom there have been a few instances when water from the tailing damp was discharged, "but which did not cause pollution of the river in any way."
Vallex Group is chaired by Russian businessman of Armenian descent Valery Mezhlumyan, one of tycoons who had until recently shared the sweetest pieces of Karabakh's pie. Back in December 2014, Mezhlumyan was personally awarded by Serzh Sargsyan, the then President of Armenia, with the Medal of Merit to the Fatherland.
According to Hetq
, the mining industry accounted for 13.7% (47 billion drams or $97.6 million) of the occupation regime's budget. Asbarez
reports that Karabakh mines have been the main driver behind the Yerevan's puppet regime's economic growth over the last few years. A 7% growth was recorded in January-September 2017 alone.
While plundering natural resources, devastating the occupited territories of Azerbaijan and involving foreign companies in this crime, Armenia sought to assert the fact of the occupation and nourished its hopes to get the occupation regime recognized by the international community. Exploitation of natural resources in Karabakh has been a source of enrichment for the Armenian elite for decades.
As the puppet has now lost control over the formerly occupied territories, left Base Metals' operations completely paralyzed, Valeri Mezhlumyan and his partners in crime, Base Metals' CEO Artur Mkrtumyan and Vallex Group's investor, citizen of Switzerland Vartan Sirmakes have been put on the international wanted list
by the Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan on the charges of illegal entrepreneurship.