Lydian International (TSX:LYD) will know next week whether the Armenian government will allow the company to continue building its Amulsar gold mine, located in the mountainous south of the country.
The project has been illegally blocked since June last year by locals and environmental activists who claim the operation would threaten several endangered animal species. These include the world’s rarest big cat, the Caucasian Leopard, of which there are only thought to be 10 left in Armenia.
Despite court rulings in Lydian’s favour, police has not been able to restore uninterrupted access to the mine site.
The scope of the work included a review of the firm’s Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), even though the later had been previously approved by the Armenian authorities before the firm began construction.
Ongoing opposition prompted the government in September to order a three-stage assessment. The objective was to study the possible impact of the project on the wildlife present in the mountain ranges of the Southern Caucasus and, particularly, in water resources such as Lake Sevan, which holds almost 25% of Armenia’s fresh water supply.
Based on company’s estimates, the blockade has cost Lydian about $100,000 a day and the loss of several key professionals.
The TSX-listed miner said in a statement it has provided the special investigative committee (SIC) with more than 300 documents, totalling about 20,000 pages of information. It has also participated in extensive technical discussions during the audit over the past four months.
Lydian noted a translation of the final conclusions will be delivered early next week.
Opposition to mining in Armenia has its roots in a long list of environmental disasters caused by previous operations, as well as in allegations of corruption among authorities in charge of granting licences.
The country, however, needs foreign investment and jobs that properly run and managed mining projects could bring in.
If approved, the Amulsar mine will be a large-scale operation with annual gold production averaging around 225,000 ounces over an initial 10-year life.