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Dear European External Action Service,

Under the right of access to documents in the EU treaties, as developed in Regulation 1049/2001, and Directive 2003/4/EC Public Access to Environmental Information, I am requesting documents which contain the following information:

Information and/or documents relating to Lydian International’s Amulsar gold mine in Armenia held, created or received by EEAS in 2018 and 2019. This information may include minutes, emails and other correspondence, agendas, briefings and reports, including from external sources. The information is likely to relate to the ongoing and potential environmental impacts of the mine.

Yours faithfully,
Thomas Rowley

EEAS ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS, Europäischer Auswärtiger Dienst

Dear Mr Rowley,

 

This message is an acknowledgement of receipt for your request for access
to documents under Regulation 1049/2001 regarding public access to
European Parliament, Council and Commission documents (which the EEAS is
also respecting).

 

Your request for access to document have been registered under reference
number: 2020/002

Please refer to this number in any further correspondence.

 

In accordance with the Regulation, you will receive a reply within 15
working days: 4/2/2020.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

EEAS ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS (AD)

[1][EEAS request email]

SG.AFFGEN.2 – Parliamentary Affairs

 

References

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1. mailto:[EEAS request email]

Dear EEAS ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS,

Thank you for your confirmation dated 14 January. Could you please state when you plan to respond?

Yours sincerely,
Thomas Rowley

EEAS ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS, Europäischer Auswärtiger Dienst

Dear Mr Rowley,

The responsible Divisions are still searching for the requested documents. We therefore, exceptionally, need to extend the deadline for replies by an additional 15 working days.

Yours sincerely,

EEAS ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS (AD)
[EEAS request email]
SG.AFFGEN.2 – Parliamentary Affairs

Dear EEAS ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS,

Thank you for your assistance in this matter!

The documents may relate, for example, to meetings held by the EU Heads of Mission with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. On 13 November 2018, EU HOM held a meeting with Mr Pashinyan - and according to FOIA releases from the UK Foreign Office, the Amulsar project was likely discussed. Therefore, relevant documents may relate to preparations and follow-ups on this meeting, such as minutes, briefings, email correspondence and other documents. It is likely that other meetings between EU HOM and the Armenian Government will also have dealt with the Amulsar issue.

Yours sincerely,

Thomas Rowley

Dear EEAS ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS,

Thank you for your confirmation. This is to remind you that the 15 day deadline is tomorrow.

Yours sincerely,

Thomas Rowley

EEAS ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS, Europäischer Auswärtiger Dienst

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Rowley,

 

On behalf of Mr Visentin please find attached the reply to your request
for access to documents.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

EEAS ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS (SBR)

[1][EEAS request email]

SG.AFFGEN.2 – Parliamentary Affairs

 

References

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1. mailto:[EEAS request email]

Dear EEAS ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS,

Thank you for your letter dated 25 February and the attached document. I would like to request a review, or confirmatory application, on this matter.

Could I ask, did other documents come up in the search? As I mentioned in previous correspondence, it seems likely that EEAS holds other documents on this matter. For example, documents relating to the 13 November 2018 meeting between EU Heads of Mission in Armenia and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. According to FOIA releases from the UK Foreign Office, the Amulsar project was likely discussed as part of this meeting, and I would therefore like to request documents related to this meeting.

Regarding the specific document issued, the Internal Note on Amulsar from 17 October 2019, I would like to request that the publications team consider the redactions once again, as the document appears to be significantly redacted. It is therefore difficult to make a specific argument on the public interest. But it seems to me that at least a proportion of the redactions could be removed in light of stronger public interest arguments.

1) It is unlikely that the public interest in a matter of urgent environmental, human and biodiversity concern is served best by the arguments stated, namely that the “release of some elements might [emphasis added] be negatively perceived” by EU partners. In this matter, accountability for decision-making is vital, given the global climate emergency, potential for significant harm to the Armenian people and the country’s biosphere, as well the fact that this project is being supported by European institutions.

In August last year, representatives of Armenian civil society called on the UK, US and Swedish embassies to withdraw their support for Lydian International’s Amulsar project. Addressing the ambassadors, the open letter cited long-standing local opposition to the mine, as well as the potential consequences for democracy building efforts in the country.

To protect its reputation, Lydian has brought defamation suits against activists in Armenia campaigning against the project. In response, the International Federation on Human Rights has criticised the company’s “worrying systematic judicial harassment and defamation campaigns aiming to silence critical journalists and human rights defenders, particularly women”.

If the EU Delegation to Armenia, or the EEAS, has been in contact with the company, its supporters or their representatives, then this should be publicly available information for accountability purposes.

I present information in support of these urgent concerns below.

a) The August 2019 ELARD-TRC report, commissioned by the Armenian government, into Lydian International’s environmental impact assessment suggests the potential for significant environmental harm.
The report stated that “a number of the [design] measures and plans are partial, not sufficiently protective, and/or unreliable with a high degree of uncertainty”, and that this was “particularly due to deficient and questionable data, models, model simulations, design bases, and/or assessment.” Specifically, the report criticised the company’s approach to Acid Rock Drainage, which it called “misleading”, and “underestimates” ARD generation.

The ELARD-TRC report has now led to further environmental auditing of the project by the Armenian government. 

b) Local residents living near the mine site believe that the project is already affecting local life, according to a survey of 35 households conducted by the Community Mutual Assistance NGO in October 2018 (available here: https://bankwatch.org/wp-content/uploads...)

As part of this survey of households in Gndevaz, Kechout and Jermuk, 85.7% of respondents reported illness, such as increasing asthmatic attacks, lung diseases and dry skin. As a result of construction operations and explosions, 71.4% of respondents said they had suffered nervous breakdowns, headaches and insomnia. Respondents welcomed the contribution by the company to community infrastructure and household incomes, yet 80% of them were pessimistic about their employment prospects in ten years’ time, when the mine is projected to close.

c) Two reports on biodiversity impacts of the Amulsar project suggest there are serious risks of negative effects. 

An audit of Lydian International’s biodiversity offset scheme by Bankwatch and Balkani Wildlife Society (Bulgaria) pointed to significant concerns with the company’s biodiversity offset scheme (available here: https://bankwatch.org/wp-content/uploads...

“After analyzing the ESIA report and appendices we conclude that the proposal to establish “Jermuk” National Park is a very negative example of biodiversity offsetting. The simplification of the task to demonstrate “no net loss” has gone to extremes in the case of Amulsar Gold Project. First by not assessing impacts on all biodiversity features and on “Djermuk Area” Emerald site. Second, by doing a wrong selection of priority biodiversity features and critical habitats. And third, by wrong assessment of how the measures will lead to “no net loss”.”2

A recent report by WWF Armenia also criticised the biodiversity audit conducted by the company: 

“There were no studies of fungi of the area, additional studies are required on some species registered in the Red Data Book of Armenia, including Acantholimon caryophyllaceum (Vulnerable), Eastern Spadefoot (Vulnerable), Transcaucasian Rat Snake (Vulnerable), Bezoar Goat (Vulnerable) and Apollo Butterfly (Vulnerable). There is no conservation or offset program for these species.” (Available here: https://wwf.panda.org/wwf_offices/armeni...)

2) Under Directive 2003/4/EC, the public has the right to access environmental information, which according to paragraph 10 “encompass[es] information in any form on the state of the environment, on factors, measures or activities affecting or likely to affect the environment or designed to protect it”. Further, paragraph 16 states that: “Grounds for refusal should be interpreted in a restrictive way, whereby the public interest served by disclosure should be weighed against the interest served by the refusal.”

It is my view that the Publication Service should examine the redactions in light of Directive 2003/4/EC, and the supporting evidence above, to see whether further disclosures could be made in the document.

Please confirm receipt of this request for a review.

Yours sincerely,

Thomas Rowley

EEAS ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS, Europäischer Auswärtiger Dienst

Dear Mr Rowley,

 

This message is an acknowledgement of receipt for your confirmatory
application requesting a review of our reply dated 25 February 2020, under
Regulation 1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament,
Council and Commission documents (which the EEAS is also respecting).

 

Your confirmatory application has the same reference number 2020/002, as
the initial ones. Please refer to this numbers in any further
correspondence.

 

In accordance with the Regulation, you will receive a reply within 15
working days from registration of the application, i.e. by 24 March 2020.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

EEAS ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS (AD)

[1][EEAS request email]

SG.AFFGEN.2 – Parliamentary Affairs

 

References

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1. mailto:[EEAS request email]

EEAS ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS, Europäischer Auswärtiger Dienst

Dear Mr Rowley,

 

We are still waiting for the reply from the Division concerned. We
therefore, exceptionally, need to extend the deadline for reply by an
additional 15 working days.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

EEAS ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS (AD)

[1][EEAS request email]

SG.AFFGEN.2 – Parliamentary Affairs

 

References

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1. mailto:[EEAS request email]

Dear EEAS ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS,

By my count 15 days have passed since your last response to confirmatory application 2020/002. I applied for a review of the authority's decision on 3 March. I would now like a response to my confirmatory application, if the authority would be so kind.

Thank you in advance.

Yours sincerely,

Thomas Rowley

EEAS ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS, Europäischer Auswärtiger Dienst

Dear Mr Rowley,

Would you be so kind as to be patient for a some more days for the reply due to special circumstances [article 7(3) and 8(2) of the Regulation] – force majeure – current working arrangements due to the pandemics.
The reply is ready and needs to be signed. We will make every effort to process your request as quickly as possible.

Yours sincerely,

EEAS ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS (AD)
[EEAS request email]
SG.AFFGEN.2 – Parliamentary Affairs

EEAS ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS, Europäischer Auswärtiger Dienst

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Rowley,

 

On behalf of Mr Di Vita please find attached the reply to your
confirmatory request for access to documents.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

EEAS Access to Documents (AD)

[1][email address]

SG.AFFGEN.2 – Parliamentary Affairs

 

 

 

 

References

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1. mailto:[email address]

Wir sind nicht sicher, ob die letzte Antwort auf diese Anfrage Informationen enthält – »falls Sie Thomas Rowley sind, bitte melden Sich an und lassen es uns wissen.