The last days in the village of Soyudlu in the Gadabay region of Azerbaijan were marked by a series of protests by residents against the construction of an artificial reservoir designed to drain waste from chemical treatment during the extraction of gold ore at a nearby gold deposit.
Resident’s dissatisfaction stems from severe concerns about the environmental impact of this project.
The protests, which began on June 20, continued until June 22, when the authorities decided to send police squads to disperse the peaceful protest. Eyewitnesses report the use of batons, rubber bullets, and pepper and tear gas by police. According to a Meydan TV report, Soyudlu villagers expressed dissatisfaction with creating an artificial lake for waste, arguing that such a practice causes severe environmental damage.
They also noted that the new lake would be located in the area of the village, where pastures are located, which would only aggravate the situation.
One of the residents’ main concerns is that the cyanide used in the gold mining process will seep into the nearby water through the filled tailing dam.
Members of the CAN EECCA Ecofront in Azerbaijan expressed their concerns about the possible consequences of the leakage of an artificial reservoir. They called on the company to cease operations pending further investigations and notices. Ecofront suspects that a filled tailing dam is already leaking cyanide solution into a nearby body of water, and a membrane installed in the lake to contain the solution is believed to cover only part of the lake, making a leak inevitable.
“We would like to have nearby drinking water tested by independent sources for the level of cyanide and heavy metals. We believe they don’t follow the required standards and guidelines as there is not any measure of control. Secondly, regarding environmental impacts, it is known that zooplankton and fish are more sensitive to cyanide than we humans. Even small leak from the dam threatens the river nearby and the entire food chain and the ecosystem. Locals already claim they lost their cattle when their animals drank from the river. It is also known that heavy metals from mining process devastate the ecosystem and impact human health. In order to access this blood sampling of people nearby village should be carried out.” Ecofront noted.
Soyudlu, located in a mountainous area, is located 450 kilometers west of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. The Gadabay deposit has been developed since 2009 by the British company Anglo Asian Mining, and the first gold mining began in 2009, and silver in 2010.