ALTER conducts the first site visits in Armenia

ALTER team members gathered in Yerevan, Armenia from June 18th to 22nd to meet both stakeholders and familiarize themselves with the three target areas of the project. The team visited the southern part of the country – the Armenian region of Syunik and visited the cities of Kapan and Kaharan located in project area 3. They met with private sector partners representing the organizations “Zangezur Copper” and “Molybdenum Combine CJSC and Polymetal International PLC” to present the project and discuss project cooperation regarding the waste, management facilities and water reservoirs associated with the mining activities of the companies in the area. The team also had the opportunity to visit the Syunik Regional Rescue Service Department, the Crisis Management Center of the RA Ministry of Emergency Situations located in Kapan and familiarized themselves with the existing response system and its links with regional and local self-government. As part of the visit, the visitors briefly visited the “Gegi” Dam and the ”Artsvankick” facility.

From Kapan, the team traveled to Project Area 2, which encompasses the “Cascade Vorotan” hydroelectric infrastructure. Productive meetings were held with Mr. Artur Sargsyan, head of the Sisi community, as well as with local administrative heads of the target villages – Vorotnana, Uit and Shahat. The meetings showed that local leaders are interested in cooperation, but risk reduction activities have been limited so far due to a lack of funding. As part of the site visit, the team also inspected the safety equipment associated with the Spandarian tank and found that much of the equipment needed to be replaced. Meetings with ContourGlobal, owners of the Vorotan hydroelectric cascade, revealed that the company is in the midst of a major overhaul of the cascade’s safety systems. Company officials expressed optimism that ALTER’s mission has synergy with broader risk reduction efforts.

The team’s visit to Project Area 3, in the northern part of Lori, began in the village of Akhtala. Meetings with the head of the Ahtala community and a health and safety engineer for the mining company that owns the Nahatak pollution management facility revealed that the company intends to reopen the facility within the next six months. After the meeting, the team visited the facility to gain a general understanding of the current situation. Since the facility would no longer be actively used, this opened up the possibility of incorporating another aqueduct or dam into the project. Given this opportunity, ALTER representatives visited “Metsavan” Dam, located near the town of Tashir, Lori District, owned by the state and used for irrigation. The dam is currently in critical condition and a breach in the dam wall could have serious consequences for downstream communities. The team further discussed these issues with the Lori Regional Rescue Department Manager. This discussion also included services as well as the administrative representative of “Metsavan” Dam. Replacing Akhtala as a pilot site includes the Teghut Waste Management Facility and downstream villages. The dam is a potential ALTER project site if Teghut CJSC or its parent group Vallex agree to participate. Further discussion of the District 1 project and possible changes will continue in June and July.

On the last day of the trip, team members visited SNCO’s  geophysical observatory of the “Regional Study for Seismic Protection to investigate the availability of national seismic hazard assessments and earthquake catalog data. The institution controls and operates the Armenian National Seismic Network, which continuously monitors seismicity in near real time. Specialists from the observatory informed the team that a new seismic station will be installed in the Kapan area soon.

ALTER is funded by DG Humanitarian Aid, Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Directorate of the European Union. The project focuses on creating public-private partnerships in Armenia to address flood risks that arise from the compromise of water bodies and mining dams. This project is numbered 783214.