Armenia is implementing new plans in order to illegally exploit the underground natural resources of the Azerbaijani territories it has occupied. Information from Armenian sources indicates that ore produced from the coal, copper and gold deposits of Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent Azerbaijani territories is being delivered to Armenia. The Armenian government has even issued a decree that the Yerevan Heat Power Plant will run on fuel produced from the coal deposits of Karabakh. A new highway is being constructed to annex the occupied Kelbajar region to Armenia and transport the looted minerals. The road has strategic significance, opening a second corridor between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, and putting at risk future talks on a resolution of the conflict.
The new Kelbajar-Zod highway is planned to connect Karabakh to Armenia by February 2013. The city of Zod is in Goycha, historical Azerbaijani land now within Armenian territory. The ‘Kavkazskiy Uzel’ news website says that Armenia is planning to transport coal from deposits in the vicinity of the Chardakhli district in the occupied Aghdere region to Armenia via this new road. (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/199305/) Armenian officials do not hide their expectation that once the new road is completed, the population of the Kelbajar region will grow.
The construction of the road also entails the development of new infrastructure. Thus it will significantly influence socio-economic development in Karabakh. Two bridges will be constructed on the highway, 35 km (80 per cent) of which is complete. The new highway will be 400 km long (150 km shorter than the Khankendi-Yerevan road) and will connect with the railway in Armenia. The coal extracted from the occupied Azerbaijani territories will first be delivered by truck to a station on the highway, then transported by rail to Yerevan. The construction is being financed by the Armenian government. When construction began Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs referred to it as a further illegal action by Armenia in the occupied territories, in contravention of international law.
The political aspect of this project is that Armenia is not willing to return Kelbajar, despite the fact that the basic principles of the resolution process demand that it does. Armenia claims to accept these principles, but its actions prove quite the contrary. President Ilham Aliyev has declared several times that he has discussed the liberation of Kelbajar and Lachin with Serzh Sargsyan. Armenia had said it would first return Karabakh and five adjacent regions and to return Kelbajar and Lachin after five to seven years. Baku had agreed, however Armenia later withdrew its agreement. At the same time Armenia is now claiming the region of Aghdam. Excavations are underway there in the city they have named Tigranakert. Even place names have been changed. Aghdam is now called Akna and Kelbajar is known as Karchavar.
Armenia has for many years been exploiting the underground minerals and valuable trees of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan – Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent districts. It has been illegally extracting the rich gold deposits of Kelbajar, in the regions bordering Armenia, since the 1990s and continues to do so. Later, gold deposits in Aghdere and Zengilan were broached. The unrecognized government of Nagorno-Karabakh sees ore mining as a lucrative and promising industry. Base Metals Ltd, which was founded in August 2002, has been mining copper and gold deposits in the Qizilbulag (Drambon) village in the Aghdere region for several years now. The exploitation of natural resources in the occupied territories is carried out by a company called Manex and Valex. In 2005, they invited 146 employees (mostly from South American countries like Brazil and Argentina) to work in Karabakh.
Black copper in the occupied Azerbaijani territories is produced by the Armenian Copper Programme (ACP) Closed Joint Stock Company. According to the company, every year 10,000 tons of concentrate is produced from the copper deposits in Azerbaijani territories. The product is then sent to European copper smelting plants. Around 30 companies are involved in the exploitation of natural resources in Karabakh. Several years ago GF Ltd in Nagorno-Karabakh reached an agreement with a Cuban company to produce small souvenirs with precious stones from Karabakh. They intended to invest 20 million dollars in this project. As a rule these companies are supported by Armenian businessmen abroad or the so-called ‘Karabakh Clan’ that controls government in Armenia.
Exploiting to exhaustion
According to news organisations, copper deposits in Karabakh are close to exhaustion. Grant Bagratyan, former Prime Minister of Armenia, has also confirmed that the copper deposits in the occupied territories have been completely ransacked.
We no longer have copper deposits left in Nagorno-Karabakh and Alaverdi. These deposits have been depleted. If the ruthless extraction does not stop, other deposits will soon be facing the same fate.
According to the former prime minister, the plundering of the copper deposits in Karabakh and Armenia is mainly the responsibility of Surik Khachatryan, Governor of Sunik Province (former Goycha district). The company is represented as a German company, but in fact is owned by Robert Kocharyan, former president of Armenia. Bagratyan called for the exploitation of copper deposits to cease in order to preserve the resources for future generations.
Yerevan to depend on Azerbaijani coal
At the meeting of the Armenian Cabinet of Ministers which adopted the decree to use Karabakh coal at the Yerevan Heat Power Plant, Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan said that the coal will be produced in the occupied Aghdere region and transported through Kelbajar. (http://armenpress.az/rus/news/678077/na-erevanskuyu-tes-dostavyat-ugol-iz-nagornogo-karabakha.html) The Prime Minister has said that they have contracted with the Hana-Trans company to transport the ore. The company has been exempted from value-added tax and will use 40 large-capacity trucks to transport the coal via the new Kelbajar highway. Armen Movsisyan, Armenia’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, told Armenian Public Television (Armininfo) that they are researching the resource capacity of coal deposits in the Ahgdere region.
We should note that Aghdere is one of the richest areas of Azerbaijan for natural resources both above and below ground. According to information from the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Azerbaijan there are many rich deposits of ore in the region: the Qizilbulaq deposit has 13.6 industrial business units of gold and 47.9 million tons of copper, the Mehmankhana deposit has 37.3 million tons of lead and 40.4 million tons of zinc and the Demirli copper deposit has 100 million tons; there is also the Janyataq-Gulyataq gold deposit. Other statistics credit Aghdere with 3.8 million cubic metres of stone deposits, Shorbulaq 1 with 6.4 million cubic metres, Shorbulaq 2 with 2.1 million cubic metres and the Aghdere alabaster deposit with 200,000 cubic metres. These precious resources are now under the control of the forces of occupation.