By Khankishiyeva Ellada in Baku:-
The richest minerals of Azerbaijan remained in the territories occupied by Armenia. As it is well-known, there are about 155 minefields of different kind of minerals in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, including 5 gold mines, of which 3 are gold deposits with documented industrial reserves.
These are the Zod gold mine located in Kalbajar district, the Gyzylbulag gold mine in Agdere district and the Vejneli deposit in Zangilan district. Proved industrial gold reserves of the deposits in the occupied territories amount to 205.3 tons of gold.
Currently, Armenians use these deposits as a source of profit. According to the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Azerbaijan, in recent years, more than 30 companies have been established in Nagorno-Karabakh to plunder natural resources in the occupied territories.
It should be noted that in recent years, the mining industry has become the main industry that stimulates the development of the economy, and has a large share in “NKR” GDP. The volume of capital investments in the mining sector of Nagorno-Karabakh has increased significantly, both from the state budget and from the private sector. Today, the mining industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy of Nagorno-Karabakh and accounts for 19% of the total production.
In August 2002, Base Metals was founded by the Armenian company “Vallex Group” to study and exploit the copper-gold mine near Heyvaly village in Kalbajar district (Drmbon). Within 13 months, the Drmbon mining and gold processing plant was built and operated. All these years this plant has been the most successful enterprise in Nagorno-Karabakh, the largest producer and taxpayer. Predatory manners of mining at this deposit led to the fact that for a short 10 years, ore mining decreased from 30 thousand tons per month to 6-10 thousand tons. Not only the volume of ore extraction decreased, but also the content of copper in it by 30 percent, and gold – by 2-3 times. Currently, the resources of the Drmbon mine are fully exhausted and mining is not conducted here.
For the whole 8 years, Base Metals was looking for new manifestations of industrial minerals, as a result, in December 2011, ore manifestations of industrial significance were discovered on just one well, which today are already known as the large Cashen (Agdere) field. An agreement on the organization of mining and industrial work at the Agdere deposit was concluded in March 2012 between the separatist government and the same company Vallex Group, which intends to invest approximately $ 80 million in setting up production. The concentrate produced at the enterprise is exported to the Alaverdi copper-molybdenum plant, where it undergoes metallurgical processing, after which the products — copper, containing gold — are taken to the European market.
Another Armenian company – the Armenian copper program (its owners Vallex FM (Liechtenstein) and Elecom (Swiss) – processed 40,000 tons of concentrate in 2009 and received 9.5 tons of black copper from the Gyzylbulag deposit in Agdere region. In the first quarter of 2014, the Armenian Copper Program (ACP) increased crude copper production by 6.8% to 1,778 tons compared to 1,665 tons in the same period of 2013. All products manufactured here are also fully exported to Europe.
The Soyudlu deposit ( Zod) is located on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in the Kalbajar district, 73% of which is occupied by Armenians and there are more than 112 tons of gold on its Azerbaijani part. Before the occupation of Kalbajar region, more than 27 tons of gold were mined from this deposit. Despite the fact that the operation of the field was suspended in 1992, in 1996, American specialists began to carry out geological exploration here. As a result of this work, it was discovered that the deposit has reserves of more than 40 tons of gold. The development of gold here is the Canadian company First Dynasty Mines (FDM).
According to the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Azerbaijan, the company FDM has invested $12 million in the gold mining industry of Armenia. In addition, the Armenian government is negotiating with the International Finance Corporation and other foreign banks to make new investments in the gold mining industry in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
Another American company Global Gold, which has been engaged in gold mining in Armenia for more than 20 years, has built a plant in Kalbajar district. R.V. Investment company in Azerbaijan informed Armenian company that it had signed a contract with Azerbaijan to develop these fields and any operation carried out there could end in international responsibility. Despite this, the gold-rich deposits of Azerbaijan in the territories of Kalbajar and Zangilan regions are exploited by Armenians, ignoring all international legal norms.
In addition to the above companies, companies such as Gold Star, East West Global Mining Inc, Sirkap Armenian, Gegament Plus, Energy Plus, etc., intend to search for minerals and develop deposits in Karabakh. Searches for minerals on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh continue by the Armenian companies.
The Azerbaijani side monitors the processes in the occupied territories, submits to companies leading drilling and exploration work there in an international court. However, all the attempts undertaken so far by the Operating Company and the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Azerbaijan to organize an international expedition to the occupied Azerbaijani territories proved to be in vain. Just as unresponsive were appeals to the Armenian governments, the UK, the US State Department, the UN and other organizations about the participation of foreign companies in the illegal development of gold deposits in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan made a statement in which it contained a reminder about the inadmissibility of capital investments, as well as the conduct of any business in the territory of the unrecognized “Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh”. In 2016, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan presented a report on illegal economic and other activities in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan to the world community. According to the evidence presented, Armenia illegally exports natural resources from the occupied territory. Armenia plays the role of a transit point, from where products and mineral resources produced in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan are exported to international markets.
During the investigation, on the basis of high-definition images obtained from the Azersky satellite of Azerkosmos OJSC, as well as geological survey data, the facts of illegal mining operations at the ore deposits located in the occupied territories were proved. On these facts, the General Prosecutor’s Office opened a criminal case under articles 192.2.3 (illegal business) and 318.2 (illegal crossing of the state border of Azerbaijan).
(Khankishiyeva Ellada is an economist, author of many analytical articles published in the periodicals and a participant of research works on the economy of Azerbaijan.In 1999, graduated with honors from the Azerbaijan State Economic University, State Regulation Department. In 2009, received Master’s degree in specialty “Economy and management in industry and services” at the same University. Currently, a doctoral candidate at the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan Republic for PhD in Economy.)
Disclaimer views expressed are not of SRG
Edited by Dr Shahid Qureshi – Group Chief Editor