On July 23 British-Canadian "Lydian International" and its Armenian subsidiary "Geoteam" CJSC presented the results of the environmental and social impact assessment of the Amulsar Gold Project implementation. Along with several other expert consultants Wardell Armstrong International Ltd, an independent British consulting company undertook the assessment in compliance with the standards of the International Finance Corporation and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. To note, IFC and EBRD are "Lydian International" shareholders.
Armen Stepanyan, the Environmental and Social Manager at Lydian International, told the media that the assessment provides a detailed description of the Amulsar project activities on gold industry, as well as related infrastructure construction. The summary also defines the environmental and social conditions in Amulsar, as well as forecasts the Project impacts on the wildlife of the area and the local population's activities. The document contains information on upcoming events arranged for the control, neutralization and reduction of possible disamenities.
Lydian's proposed Amulsar Gold Project comprises the extraction, via blasting and excavation, of ore from three open pits on Amulsar Mountain; crushing of ore and transportation via conveyor to a heap leach facility, where gold and silve are leached into solutuion using sodium cyanide; and extraction of the precious metals from the solution at an adsorption-desorption recovery plant.
David Brignall, the soil scientist at WAI, mentioned the possible economic, social and environmental impacts of mine processing. Part of the infrastructure covers pratal lands, which locals often employ as grassland in summer periods. Entering those territories will be partially forbidden while the project was in the implementation process. HLF and part of the conveyor are located at lower elevation on private- and community-owned land near the villages Gndevaz and Saravan. Some 265 plots of private land totaling 135.55 ha, mostly belonging to Gndevaz residents, are to be acquired by the project. In addition, 83 land plots affected by the conveyor will be compensated pursuant to an easement agreement. There is no need for physical resettlement, but some cultivated land will be lost resulting in economic displacement.
Approximately 1300 people are to be employed during the mine construction, while 770 will be working during operation. Lydian International prioritizes local recruitment and aims for at least 30% of operations jobs to go to residents of the local and nearby settlements. The direct and indirect employment opportunities presented by the project may serve as an attraction to in-migrants, potentially raising the local population and increasing the demand for goods and services. Increased demand, coupled with increased disposable income from mining wages, could in turn generate localized inflation.
"Lydian will work with local communities and government to minimize and manage the potential negative social impacts of the Project, through regular monitoring, information dissemination and awareness training", the reports reads.
The project effects can disturb and have impacts on other receptors, such as wildlife. Traffic impacts will be controlled to the extent possible. The Project will result in the loss of natural vegetation, including habitat for both Potentilla porphyrantha and Ursus arctos that, according to international standards, is designated as "critical habitat". The natural habitats are host to several rare or threatened animal and plant species. Of particular note are the alpine plant, Potentilla porphyrantha, which is listed as "critically endangered" in the Armenian Red Book and is present on the rocky mountain tops of Amulsar; and Ursus arctos (Brown Bear), which feeds and hibernates on or around the mountain. Mining will also reduce the quality of habitats as a result of noise and dust deposition, and by blocking animal movement. Potential impacts on biodiversity will be reduced to the extent possible by the implementation of management measures and by post-mining restoration. To compensate for the loss of natural habitat, Lydian will establish a "biodiversity offset" which will aim to ensure that there is no net loss of such habitat as a result of the Project. For Potentilla porphyrantha and Ursus arctos, Lydian is undertaking research programmes to determine whether additional mitigation measures may be necessary to ensure no net loss in relation to these species.
Groundwater within the Project area feeds springs and recharges the main rivers, which include the Vorotan, Arpa and Darb. Spring and river water is used variously for drinking and irrigation supply, in fish farming and for hydroelectric power generation. A fundamental principal of Project design is that process water - which includes water used in the mining process, contact water and seepage from the barren rock facility - will not enter the outside environment; i.e. it will be a closed system. All runoff and non-contact water will be discharged after appropriate treatment. A comprehensive monitoring programme will be in place to ensure its integrity. Modelling shows that the Project's use of river water will not affect the availability of water for other users. Aquifers are not going to be significantly impacted by mining operations. Furthermore, a detailed study has shown that there is no physical connection between groundwater beneath the Project site and the source of the mineral water used and bottled at Jermuk.
According to the survey, the distances between Project infrastructure and the local communities are such that air pollution, noise, vibration and dust generated by the Project will not significantly affect local people.
Surveys have identified 75 potential archaeological sites that are likely to be impacted by Project development, although none of these is considered by Armenian and international cultural heritage experts to be of high importance. A "chance finds procedure" will be in place at all times to ensure that any significant new site or artefact discovered during Project implementation can be recorded, investigated and removed or excavated as appropriate.
Lydian is an emerging gold developer, focused on its 100%-owned Amulsar Gold Project in Southern Armenia. Amulsar will be Armenia's largest gold mine, with total estimated mineral resources containing 3 million gold ounces as measured and indicated resources, 2 million gold ounces as inferred resources, and estimated annual production targeted at 200,000 gold ounces. Lydian received approval of the Mining Right for Amulsar in late 2014. This represents the final stage of the mining permitting process and grants Lydian the right to develop the Amulsar Gold Project in line with the parameters detailed in the updated feasibility study (October 2014). The updated feasibility study demonstrates Amulsar as a compelling opportunity for a large scale, low cost operation utilizing open pit mining and conventional heap leach processing. Highlights include: total recoverable gold of 2.1 million ounces over a 10.4 year mine life; gold production averaging over 200,000 ounces per year; initial capital costs of $426 million; low all-in sustaining costs of $701 per ounce of gold; 84% gold recoveries and 2.8:1 strip ratio; accelerated after tax-cash flows to support early payback and project financing. Lydian International was founded in the UK in 2005. It is the sole shareholder of "Geoteam" CJSC. The majority shareholders of Lydian are the IFC, the EBRD and Newmont Mining Corporation. Geoteam CJSC is an Armenian mineral exploration and development company.
Geoteam CJSC is a 100% owned subsidiary of Lydian International Limited. Geoteam CJSC, was incorporated in 2005 and after an extensive campaign of geological exploration in Armenia discovered what is now its flagship project; the Amulsar mountain. Since 2006, the investments in exploration and other operations in Amulsar has amounted to nearly 70 million USD. Amulsar is a new gold discovery, the first for over 20 years in Armenia. Geoteam CJSC is carrying out geological exploration in the Amulsar area of RA Vayots Dzor Marz, under a Prospecting License, granted in 2006 by RA Ministry of Nature Protection. The key shareholders of the Lydian are IFC, EBRD and Newmont Mining Corporation. The Amulsar project envisages creation of 1,500 jobs in the course of construction and 700 jobs throughout the entire operation of the mine within the next 10 years.