Grandma Paytzar: "They said there is gold here, but I haven't seen any"
20:52, September 28, 2012

The village of Halidzor in the Goris district might turn into a ghost town.

It all depends if gold is discovered in a nearby mine. Residents are
nervously awaiting the results of exploratory testing that was
conducted last year.

If the yellow ore is found to exist in quantities profitable for
commercial exploitation, mining companies will move in and transform
life in the village forever.

"One day, in the evening, some guys came to our house and said they
were surveying the land for a road to bring in drilling equipment.
They didn't show us any papers or permits. They said they would be
back if the results are positive, says village Mayor Samvel Asryan,
adding that it's up to the national government to decide whether to
permit the operation of a mine in the area.

The mine in question is located just one kilometer from the village
and a scant 1.5 kilometers from the Tatev Monastery. Most of the
village's fields. The main income source, are located on the future
mine site.

"All our produce is ecologically clean and we have high hopes for
developing tourism in the area. True, local villagers haven't really
benefitted from the Tatev cable car but I have high hopes for the
future," says Mayor Asryan, adding that they want to construct a
market near the cable car where villagers can sell their produce to
visitors and others.

"If they go ahead with the mine, no tourist will want to come here.
God forbid they decide to build a factory here. It would be a
catastrophe for the village," Asryan argues.

Village resident Mashik Zakaryan has an interesting take on the matter.

"Back in the Soviet period, they carried out tests here. They said
that there was no gold to be mined. The Armenians said this in order
not to share the gold with the Russians. They left it for future
generations. The question is will Armenia now go ahead and mine it or

Halidzor residents are angry that no one has come and asked what they
think should be done.

"Who has come and asked us what we want? They'll mine whether we like
it or not. And what if they expose uranium? It would be bad for us but
who cares? OK, so they open a mine and we go and work and get paid.
But what if we're all sick as a result?" argues Artavazd Arakelyan.

Whenever any work is carried out at the mine, Tamara Haroutyunyan is
the first to know. Her house is close by and she sees everything.

"During the Soviet years when they can and blasted to build a road,
the walls of our house cracked and the windows broke. They compensated
us for the damage. But no one knows what's going on now and who is
doing what. All I know is that two villagers went to work as diggers
and were paid peanuts. They quit and have moved to Russia," says Mrs.

Tamara is concerned that the mine will create more problems that will
outweigh any possible employment and would ultimately alter their
rural way of life forever.

Roubik Sargsyan agrees and says that most would leave the village if a
mining operation is launched.

Paytzar Haroutyunyan is one of the elders of the village. She says
that she's often heard the stories about Halidzor's gold.

"They have said that gold exists. I've heard the stories but never
have seen any. I don't know about any poisons but a mine will cause
damage. They say the village will change. I don't know," the senior
says in the local Goris dialect.

Arekla Local Trading is the company tat has received an exploratory
license. Results of the tests have yet to be announced.

In the meantime, the fate of Halidzor rests in the balance.

Residents face an uncertain future, especially since no one has
bothered to tell them what exactly is going on in their backyard.

From: Baghdasarian