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https://www.turan.az-The Kalbajar region of Azerbaijan, liberated on November 25 from 27 years of Armenian occupation, has enormous economic potential, since there are many ore deposits on its territory.In this article, we will pay attention to the deposit of precious metals – Soyudlu (in the Armenian name Zod or Sot) with about 112 tons of gold in this zone, and the gold content in the ore is very high – 7, 3 grams per tonne is one of the highest in the South Caucasus region (Anglo Asian Mining – AAM estimate).
The field was discovered in 1951 on the border of the Kalbajar region from the side of Azerbaijan and the Basarkechar region from the side of Armenia. And despite the fact that most of the deposit (75% of gold reserves or 17 out of 25 gold-bearing veins) was located in Azerbaijan, by the order of the USSR Ministry of Geology, the supervision of the deposit was transferred to the Geology Department of Armenia. Commercial exploitation of the field began in 1976. In 1977-1990, 27.6 tons of gold were mined at this deposit.
In 1992, due to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, work on this field was suspended.
Nevertheless, the government of Azerbaijan on August 20, 1997 included it in its first long-term international “golden contract”, signed with RV Investment.
Having no access to this field due to the Armenian occupation, this company – the operator of AAM (quoted on the London Stock Exchange), based on imagery from space, recorded that the Armenian side, in violation of international law, was operating in this area of the captured Kalbajar region. These facts are legalized in the form of claims and are waiting in the wings.
As stated in the AAM on November 24, 2020, “a peace agreement was signed that appears to have ended the fighting.”
“The Azerbaijani government and AAM will inform the market in due time about their plans for the contract areas included in the 1997 Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) and located in those regions of Azerbaijan, access to which is now open,” the statement said.
Note that this PSA with RV Investment also included the Vecnali gold deposits in the Zangilan region and Gyzylbulag in the Agdere region, but Soyudlu is considered one of the most valuable, since gold on it contains few impurities, which means the process of its purification (refining) is facilitated and does not require large financial costs.
In general, these 3 fields have a contract area of 900 square kilometers.
Until now, the site in the Kalbajar region was under the control of the Russian company Geo Pro Mining LLC, which operates in Armenia and the Russian Federation.
As the Russian media write on November 27, “the Zod field was divided into two parts by the state border of Armenia with the Kalbajar region that came under the control of Azerbaijan.”
As the first deputy chief of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces Tigran Khachatryan told reporters, “Geo Pro Mining took preliminary measures to ensure security, a checkpoint was placed on the road, and the Azerbaijani military were warned that this was a Russian facility.”
It should be reminded that on November 26, a video appeared on the network in which the Azerbaijani military entered the territory of this gold mine.
Late in the evening of November 26, the Armenian Ministry of Defense announced that the border between Armenia and the Kalbajar region, taken under the control of Azerbaijan, was being demarcated, and part of the work was going through the zone of the gold deposit.
Turan appealed to the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry with this issue, but at the time of this writing, no comments followed.
According to experts, the demarcation process takes time, which means that it is still difficult to say when the Soyudlu field will be transferred to the AAM balance sheet.
In the meantime, the main operations of AAM are carried out at the Gadabay deposit (reserves of 735 thousand ounces of gold, gold grade 0.6-0.8 g / t), at the Gadir mine (reserves – 267 thousand ounces of gold, gold grade 2.4 g / t) and a number of other sites with a total area of almost 2 thousand square kilometers.
In 2020, AAM can extract about 70 thousand ounces of gold from the zones developed since 2006 in Azerbaijan against 81.4 thousand ounces at the end of 2019. The decrease is due to the effects of quarantine measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the near future, AAM will clarify its plans for two other fields in the liberated territories, but it is possible that during the demarcation Gyzylbulag will remain with the Armenian side.
As for Vecnali, according to the well-known economist, deputy Vugar Bayramov, this gold deposit in the Zangilan region belongs to the quartz-gold-sulfide-containing veins of the geological-industrial type.
“25 gold-bearing quartz vein zones have been studied at the deposit, reserves in categories C + C2 have been calculated for zones 14, 15, 16, 19, 21 and 24. The Vezhnali deposit was discovered in 1959-1962, and geological exploration work was carried out there in 1962-1971, 1976-1981 and 1983-1984. It was registered by the Commission on Resources in 1984 and included in the State Balance of Mineral Resources of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Approved reserves: C1 category ore – 183,000 tons, gold – 2,169 tons; ore category C2 – 433 thousand tons, gold – 4 347 tons; silver category C1 – 0.19 tons; silver category C2 – 9.9 tons; copper of category C1 – 0.2 thousand tons; copper of category C2 – 2800 tons,” Bayramov said in an interview with AzerTac.
In his words, Armenian businessmen and a number of their foreign partners actually in 1992-2020 illegally plundered ore deposits of Azerbaijan in the occupied territories.
“One of these criminals is Vartan Sirmakes, one of the founders and CEO of the world famous Swiss watch brand Franck Muller Group. Gold from Soyudlu and Vezhnali actually went to the products of this brand (18-carat gold), was sold in 999.9-carat gold bars on international exchanges and supplied to the Central Bank of Armenia… Five years ago the General Prosecutor’s Office of Azerbaijan opened a criminal case against Vardan Sirmakes and put him on the international wanted list. From the materials of the investigation it is clear that the Azerbaijani side received enough information about the illegal economic activities of Sirmakes and, in particular, about his participation in the illegal development of gold deposits. All these facts have been transferred to the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Swiss Confederation,” the deputy said.
He added that according to the order of the President of Azerbaijan, a comprehensive assessment of the damage caused by Armenia to Azerbaijan will be carried out in the territories under occupation.
“On the basis of this and materials on the illegal exploitation of Azerbaijan’s natural resources, the damage caused by Armenia to Azerbaijan will be assessed and all necessary measures will be taken to bring the hostile country, its past and present leaders, foreign companies and their leaders to justice,” Bayramov said.
Mine will be divided in Soviet style
The head of the national geological service of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Azerbaijan, Ali Aliyev, told ASTNA exclusively that during the delimitation of the state border between Azerbaijan and Armenia along the line that passed back in the Soviet era, “74% of the Zod-Soyudlu gold deposit will be on the territory of the Kalbajar region of Azerbaijan, and the rest will be in Armenia”.
“This deposit has few impurities and high gold content. It’s easy to operate. The part of this largest deposit in the Caucasus, where there is a low gold content, is located in Armenia. Knowing this, Armenian businessmen took advantage of the occupation of the Kalbajar region and worked intensively on the rich Azerbaijani site, in a large area, trying to extract as much ore as possible from our zone. The Armenians wanted to ditch our part of the deposit so that we would not get anything. But I am sure that after 27 years of occupation and barbaric development, the Soyudlu field is not empty. In the coming months we will begin monitoring this zone and assessing the damage,” Aliyev told ASTNA.
According to him, there are certain technological and other specific nuances of the prospects for the exploitation of this field in the Kelbajar region, which it is too early to talk about, but they are optimistic.
“We did not have contacts with a Russian company that has been the operator at the Zod (Sot) field in recent years. Starting from November 25, Azerbaijan regains its rights to the main part of the field,” he stressed.
According to Ali Aliyev, on November 27, the Ministry held a discussion on another gold-bearing deposit – Vecnali, which is located in the Zangilan region of Azerbaijan.
“We have raised all the materials on it and in the coming days we will begin monitoring and assessing its condition,” he said.
As for the Gyzylbulag field near Agdere (the territory of the Terter region), then, according to the representative of the Ministry, it also falls under the jurisdiction of Azerbaijan after the liberation of the rest of the Terter region.
“These three fields – Soyudlu, Vecnali and Gyzylbulag – are included in the PSA contract signed in August 1997 with RV Investment. We will involve the specialists of this company in assessing the condition of these deposits after we ourselves carry out their initial monitoring and evaluation. The commission for assessing the state of assets on the liberated lands, created by order of the President of Azerbaijan, has begun active work, and we will later share the results of its work, in particular, on ore deposits,” Ali Aliyev said.