New legislation strengthening environmental controls on mining adopted

Press Release


Yerevan – Legislation tightening environmental regulations was recently signed into law by Armenian President Vahagn Khachaturyan.  This new environmental law, which impacts government licensing for mining, construction, and other industries, includes provisions that the Mining Legislative Reform Institute (MLRI) has been advancing for several years. 

“We are encouraged that some of our conceptual reform ideas were included in the final package,” stated David Hakobyan, Executive Director of MLRI. 

MLRI’s primary input centred on making metal mining more responsible in Armenia, particularly by clarifying the legal obligations of mining companies and making them enforceable. Previously, to obtain a mining-license operators were required to prepare a package of documents describing all aspects of the mining process from the opening of the mine, exploitation of the minerals, and the steps planned to be taken upon its closure. This included an Environmental Impact Assessment, specifying the effects the mine will have on land, air, and water resources and how these will be remediated. 

However, because those documents previously were not legally binding, companies would often include strict provisions knowing that they would not be held accountable if they did not live up to these commitments. Moreover, companies could change major aspects of their operation without having to demonstrate how these changes would diverge from their original environmental impact estimates.

Through the efforts of MLRI, mining companies will now have to uphold the commitments they make or face legal consequences. Mining companies are now required to submit a formal Project Proposal documenting all the steps they intend to take during the mine’s operation. This Project Proposal, and all its supporting documentation such as the Environmental Impact Assessment, are now legally binding and enforceable due to the changes in the new law introduced by MLRI. In addition, if a mining company wants to modify its operation, it will now need to formally amend the Project Proposal and update all the support documents to bring them in line with the new plan.  Before proceeding with changes to its operation, the entire package will then be reviewed and, if approved, its new provisions will become subject to enforcement. This also was a major element of MLRI’s proposal that was adopted in the new law.

“These are fundamental changes to environmental law in Armenia and hopefully the government’s regulatory arm will be watching closely to ensure that mining companies live up to their commitments,” continued Hakobyan. “We encourage the government to train the staff of the inspection agencies to ensure fulfilment of the provisions in these newly upgraded legal documents.”

Despite these important advances, other provisions in the adopted legislative package drew criticism from civil society organizations and environmental activists. Also, several elements of MLRI’s reform proposal were not included by the government in the legislation.  For example, the government did not make these changes retroactively effective; those already licensed metal mines will not be required to live up to the obligations that new mines must fulfil. 

“These changes would have improved the quality of the binding acts and would have given additional tools to the inspection agencies to protect our right to a healthy environment,” stated Hakobyan. 

MLRI began the process of environmental policy development several years ago, conducting research into how Armenia’s existing environmental rules were being applied in the mining industry; benchmarking other countries’ regulatory requirements; consulting with mining interests, environmental interests, and community stakeholders; and attending various conferences and symposia on environmental matters and mining.  MLRI then shared its findings with the government, encouraging the adoption of more stringent rules for establishing and enforcing the environmental commitments made by the mining companies.

“In addition to environmental policy development, MLRI has undertaken research on responsible mining best practices, publishing papers on Armenia’s tailings and waste management processes, water quality and usage, mine closure, and rehabilitation processes, etc.,” stated Hakobyan. “Now that this environmental impact legislation has been adopted, we will continue to engage with stakeholders and the government to advance responsible mining policy in these other areas,” he concluded.

MLRI began in 2014 as part of the American University of Armenia’s Center for Responsible Mining, and in 2019, MLRI became an independent NGO.  Since its inception in 2014, MLRI’s work has been made possible in large part through grants from the Tufenkian Foundation, a charity founded in 1999 by social entrepreneur and venture philanthropist James Tufenkian, which addresses some of the most pressing social, economic, cultural, and environmental challenges facing Armenia and Artsakh.

12 June, 2023

The Mining Legislation Reform Institute (MLRI) is a registered Armenian NGO. It seeks to ensure that mining in Armenia provides sufficient benefits to the country and local communities. Its main activities include research, stakeholder consultation, policy development, public education, communications, advocacy, and legislative reform.

The MLRI was previously based at the American University of Armenia’s Center for Responsible Mining. The activities of the MLRI are made possible by funding from the Tufenkian Foundation.