On August 19, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan spoke on Amulsar mine operation on Facebook live, comparing it with the copper mine operated near Salt Lake City in the US since early 20th century. In particular, Prime Minister Pashinyan noted: “I read a piece today, and, to be honest, it surprised me a lot. Salt Lake City, where the 2002 Winter Olympic Games were held… There is an interesting thing about it. Bingham Canyon copper mine is operated there, at an 18 km distance from the lake. It is close to the city, approximately the same [distance] as Amulsar from Jermuk.”
The Fact Investigation Platform decided to check the accuracy of the comparison made by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and calculate the distance between the Bingham Canyon mine, the lake and the settlement. Thus, we revealed that the Bingham Canyon mine is actually about 53 km far from Salt Lake City, while Amulsar is almost three times closer to Jermuk (18.4 km distance). We get this figure if we calculate the distance by considering the automobile road. However, the distance between the mine and the lake is 18 kilometers straight, meaning Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan was correct, but did not mention the road distance between the mine and the settlement.
If we measure the distances in a straight line, the Bingham Canyon mine is about 33 km far from Salt Lake City, and Amulsar is 11 km far from Jermuk (three times less).
During the same Facebook live, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan also mentioned that Salt Lake City is one of the largest tourist destinations in the United States and is a ski resort like Jermuk. He pointed out that there is a mine and tailing dump near the city where the Olympic Games were held, but did not address the negative consequences of the mine operation and the resulting complaint filed by the United States against Kennecott Corporation.
It is noteworthy that in 2008, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, which is a federal agency of the United States, sued the KENNECOTT UTAH COPPER CORPORATION operating the mine for emitting hazardous substances, including selenium, copper, arsenic, zinc, lead and cadmium.
The complaint specifically states: “The releases of these hazardous substances have resulted in injury to natural resources, including migratory birds, and their supporting ecosystem… Contaminated groundwater has been released through artesian springs into areas that serve as fish and wildlife habitats.”
In addition, an investigation in 1980 found that hazardous materials had been discharged into groundwater springs due to mining activities, and the State of Utah filed a lawsuit against Kennecott in October 1986 for the loss and destruction of natural resources, particularly groundwater sources. In 1990, it was discovered that homes built near the mine were contaminated with high levels of lead and arsenic. Efforts to clean up impacts accumulated over 100 years began in the 1990s and continue to this day, and as a result of selenium release from the mine, about 30% of the fish population was destroyed in the early 1990s.
The following picture shows a comparison of the two satellite images showing the changes that occurred in Bingham Canyon from 1985 to 2016.
Thus, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan not only makes inappropriate comparisons, presenting the distance between the Amulsar mine and Jermuk as equal to that between Salt Lake City and the Bingham Kenyon mine, but also only mentions the presence of a mine near the American “tourist town”, while not addressing the problematic issues arising from its operation, and this circumstance may result in misunderstanding among the public.