Armenia: Lydian Intl. filed 15 SLAPPs against activists opposing Amulsar gold mine to silence criticism, says watchdog; incl. company response

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Article
30 June 2020

SLAPPd: the Armenian activists fighting a mining multinational’s lawsuits

Author: David Hoffman & Fidanka Bacheva-McGrath, CEE Bankwatch Network

22 June 2020

Strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP) are a form of often frivolous litigation used by corporations to intimidate and punish critics and silence their right to free speech. Lydian international, the tax haven-listed mining company, has repeatedly deployed the tactic against journalists and civil society as it presses forward with the Amulsar gold mine in Armenia, whilst the EBRD has stood by silently...

Lydian has filed no less than 15 suits against dissenting voices, largely as an attempt to silence criticism. In spite of the clear malicious intent of the complaints, the EBRD, which has a mandate to promote democracy, has refused to intervene in support of the right to free speech. We interviewed several members of the fight to protect Amulsar who are currently tied up in litigation with Lydian, and they shared their experiences in navigating the precarious territory of SLAPP suits...

In addition to these suits, in 2018 Lydian filed a claim against the Armenian Environmental and Mining Inspection Body. The inspection body had identified a range of violations related to mine’s operation and obliged the company to stop certain activities in the Amulsar area. In particular, the body noted the presence of red-listed species, project deviations during construction works, the inappropriate land use, unauthorized atmospheric emissions, failure to draft and approve hazardous waste passports during construction, the storage of hazardous wastes without a license and failure to pay environmental taxes for dust emissions. In 2019, the company also filed a lawsuit against two Armenian media sources – Lragir and Skizb – for defamation.

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Company response
29 June 2020

Response by Lydian International

Author: Lydian International

...For years, unchallenged misinformation and defamation disseminated by different groups negatively impacted thousands of Project stakeholders, including communities, employees, contractors, and suppliers. Thousands of people have lost jobs, livelihoods, and the ability to be able to sustain their families in their own communities due to unprecedented illegality lasting for over 2 years. Over 500 people have had to out-migrate from affected communities since the start of the illegal blockades of the Amulsar Project in 2018.

Lydian has always been considerate towards any environmental or social concerns expressed by any stakeholder.  For years any misinformation, or even defamation, expressed by groups opposed to the Amulsar Project has been addressed with science and patience.  Lydian has made comprehensive and consistent information disclosure, participated in countless discussions and interviews, and commissioned multiple technical reports provided by world-class experts which were made available to all...

Lydian has been wrongly accused of corruption and other crimes by persons opposed to the Amulsar Project. Since it is impossible to respond to accusations of crimes and allegations of corruption with science, Lydian has been left with no other recourse than to seek the assistance of the courts to stop the defamation and falsehoods...

[W]e believe that your readers will benefit from knowing that many community members claim that it is the activists and illegal blockaders that have consistently tried to silence the voice of the communities in support of the Amulsar Project.  Many community members supportive of the Amulsar Project report violations of their human rights, intimidation and even assaults by those opposed to the Project...  

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