Söyüdlü protests: Anglo Asian Mining resumes operations in Azerbaijan amid environmental concerns

Soyudlu village, Photo: Meydan TV

The Government of Azerbaijan has greenlit the resumption of operations by Anglo Asian Mining, a UK-based mining company, within the Gadabey gold field.

This decision, confirmed by sources on the “Anglo Asian Mining” company page, sparked a 42% surge in the company’s shares, reaching 70.93 pence per share immediately following the announcement.

The company, aiming to enhance its operations, has pledged to implement measures outlined in an environmental audit conducted by independent consulting firm “Micon International Ltd.” A pivotal step in this process involved signing an action plan protocol with the Azerbaijani government.

According to the company, most of the protocol’s clauses are slated for implementation by the year’s end without incurring significant expenses.

However, recent concerns regarding environmental impact have surfaced. In September, an investigative commission revealed trace amounts of cyanide in the water of three observation wells within the plant area. Although the levels detected were deemed non-threatening to the environment and human health, the situation was risky.

This revelation compounded existing grievances. In June, residents of Soyudlu protested against the construction of a second artificial lake designed to contain wastewater from gold mining and processing at the “Gadabey” deposit. The police intervened in these demonstrations, resulting in injuries to around ten individuals, with five officially detained.

Residents alleged that the cyanide-laced water from the artificial lake had contaminated their drinking water, adversely affecting their health. This artificial lake would have been the second of its kind in the village, following previous protests against similar structures in 2012, which residents claim devastated local agriculture and beekeeping.

President Ilham Aliyev, addressing the protests at a government meeting on July 11, defended the police’s actions and emphasized the importance of law enforcement. He also criticized the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources for its alleged negligence in environmental matters.

Shortly after Aliyev’s statement, the Soyudlu gold deposit’s operations were officially suspended. Notably, former deputy Nazim Beydamirli, detained by the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, received a four-month prison sentence on charges related to his involvement in the protests. Beydamirli, considering himself a “prisoner of ecology,” and his legal team argue that his arrest stems from protesting police brutality during the Soyudlu village demonstrations.

Official reports state Beydamirli’s detention under Article 182.2.4 of the Criminal Code, citing extortion through threats of significant harm, carries a sentence ranging from 5 to 10 years’ imprisonment.

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