Deposits of gold and copper. Why did the situation in Karabakh escalate?
Deposits of gold and copper in Karabakh
The tense situation continues for the second day in Karabakh due to the blocking of the road connecting Khankendi (Stepanakert) with Armenia. Azerbaijani activists demand a meeting with Russian peacekeeper commander Andrei Volkov, as well as access to monitor the activities of mines in Karabakh. What deposits are meant and why is Baku disgruntled?
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The Azerbaijani NGO “Increasing Transparency in the Mining Industry of Azerbaijan” has published information about fields located in the part of Karabakh controlled by the Russian peacekeeping contingent (RMK). According to environmentalists, the reserves of the Gyzylbulag deposit (Armenians call this Drmbon) are 13.6 units of industrial gold and 47.9 million tons of copper, while the reserves of the Demirli (Kashen) deposit are estimated at 100 million tons of copper.
These figures have also been confirmed by experts from the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Azerbaijan.
It is noted that over 150 deposits of various minerals are located on this territory, “including five deposits of gold, six of mercury, two of copper, one of tin and zinc, etc.,” the report says.
What do activists want?
Azerbaijani media published a video taken by surveillance cameras in the Lachin corridor, the only road linking Khankendi (Stepanakert) with Armenia.
Baku claims that its minerals mined on the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan are transported to Armenia on trucks along this road. After this publication, several Azerbaijani government agencies at once expressed their desire to monitor the fields located in the part of Karabakh controlled by the RMK.
Despite the agreement reached with the leadership of the peacekeepers at a meeting in Khojaly, employees of Azerbaijani state structures were not allowed to enter the fields.
On December 12, hundreds of Azerbaijani public and environmental activists began a protest in the Lachin corridor near Shusha. The protest continues for the second day, and the protesters are not going to leave. They demand that commander Andrey Volkov arrive at the demonstration site and that Azerbaijani specialists gain access to the fields.
So far, their calls remain unheeded.
Meanwhile, peacekeepers blocked the road on both sides of the protesters, thereby blocking access from Armenia to Khankendi and vice versa.
Who mines ore in the Karabakh deposits?
Before the start of the second Karabakh war, gold and copper mining at the Gyzylbulag and Demirli deposits was carried out by Base Metals, which has an office in Khankendi.
This company is part of the holding Vallex Group, registered in Switzerland. Similar information appears in the materials of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Azerbaijan on illegal mining in Karabakh.
The company itself did not comment on this information, Radio Liberty reports.
“Russian peacekeepers are responsible”
According to the deputy of the Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani parliament) Elshad Mirbashiroglu, “during the years of occupation, ecological terror was carried out on the territory of Azerbaijan, and one of its main targets was illegal mining in the occupied territories.”
Mirbashiroglu noted that there are more than 160 deposits in these territories: “There are gold, and copper, and zinc, and other minerals, and for thirty years, with the direct participation of foreign companies, illegal work was carried out in these deposits. In all cases the origin of minerals belonging to Azerbaijan was changed and they were sold on world markets.”
As for the participation of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in these processes, the deputy stressed that there should be weighty arguments to accuse the RMK: “This is the territory of Russia’s responsibility. If work is being carried out there on the extraction of mineral resources in Azerbaijan, they should have their own position. So far, we cannot control this part of Karabakh.”
“Russia is acting with the separatists”
After the introduction of Russian troops in Karabakh, foreign companies could not work there, political scientist and head of the Atlas analytical center Elkhan Shahinoglu believes:
“Russia would not allow Europeans to work there. The separatist regime, due to its dependence on Russia, simply agreed to such cooperation and illegally exploits the wealth of Azerbaijan.”
According to Shahinoglu, it is for this reason that the RMK is not interested in monitoring:
“Actually, it is organized by Russia. Before us stands Vladimir Putin himself. He does not want the restoration of the sovereignty of Azerbaijan. If he wanted to, it could be solved with one phone call. Russian Defense Minister Shoigu would have ordered Volkov to let Azerbaijani specialists into the fields.”
Deposits of gold and copper in Karabakh