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Baku demands halt to illegal mining in Karabakh

Azerbaijani presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev said that the illegal mining at mineral deposits in Karabakh causes serious discontent in Azerbaijan

BAKU, December 13. /TASS/. Azerbaijan demands an end to the illegal mining at the Gyzylbulag gold deposit and the Damirli copper-molybdenum deposit in Karabakh, Azerbaijani presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev said at a meeting with foreign diplomats on Tuesday.

"We observed an intensification in the illegal exploitation of the Gyzylbulag and Damirli mineral deposits. This issue has been examined by the relevant agencies of Azerbaijan and the Defense Ministry brought up the issue with the command of Russian peacekeepers, reaching an agreement to conduct a monitoring mission by the relevant agencies at the Gyzylbulag field on December 10. This illegal activity must be stopped, and there needs to be an assessment of environmental damage," said Hajiyev, who is also head of the foreign policy department at the Azerbaijani presidential administration.

He said that the illegal mining at mineral deposits in Karabakh causes serious discontent in Azerbaijan.

"That’s why civil society activists, representatives of non-governmental organizations, other activists and groups gathered on the Shusha-Khankendi-Lachin road to express their protest," the official said.

He said all demands by the environmental activists are legitimate.

The protest

On December 12, a group of activists from Azerbaijani non-governmental environmental organizations started protesting at the Lachin-Shusha road in Karabakh against the illegal mining of natural resources in the areas controlled by the Russian peacekeeping force. The activists set up tents and said they wouldn’t leave until they were provided access to the Gyzylbulag and Damirli deposits, where they said "illegal mining" was gaining steam. The protesters also demand that the commander of the peacekeepers, Major General Andrey Volkov, come out to them. The protest is still ongoing and the people chant slogans with demands to stop the "terrorist attack on the environment." The road is blocked by Russian peacekeepers.

On December 10, representatives of the Azerbaijani Economy and Ecology ministries and some other civilian organizations arrived at the Gyzylbulag and Damirli fields that are within the area controlled by Russian peacekeepers to ascertain whether any illegal mining of minerals was taking place and any environmental damage it might have caused. According to the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, the agreement for the monitoring trip had been reached in advance at the talks between Azerbaijan and the command of the peacekeeping force. However, a group of local activists stopped Azerbaijani officials from entering the area of the mines.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said on December 11 that a diplomatic note was handed to Russia over the incident. Aykhan Hajizada, the spokesman for the ministry, said the note contained an appeal to provide Azerbaijani representatives access to these deposits in accordance with the agreements that had been reached.

Yerevan said the protest of Azerbaijani activists was a provocation, describing it as a blockade by "a group of Azerbaijanis of the Lachin corridor.".