Overview of the Case
Straddling the Europe-Asia divide, the RA covers an area of almost 28,000 square kilometres, an area slightly smaller than Belgium. A landlocked country, RA is located in the South Caucasus, bordering Georgia and Azerbaijan in the North and East as well as Iran and Turkey in the South and West. Almost 98% of its 3 million citizens are ethnic Armenians (World Factbook 2014). Mining sites are located across the entire country but are concentrated in the Northern and Western parts of the country at its borders with Turkey and Georgia.
To map the political landscape of mining and related (environmental) crime in RA, we start with an overview of the RA governmental institutions at the local, regional, and national level, followed by a summary of the various private actors, profit and non-profit (e.g. companies, environmental NGOs). This overview will also discuss the interests, resources and strategies of the various actors. Furthermore, we identify the relevant international governmental and non-governmental actors that play a role in RA’s mining industry. We continue with a cost-benefit analysis of mining in RA, considering economic, environmental, and societal costs and benefits. This section concludes with an assessment of the various national laws and international treaties related to mining in RA, the law implementation process and the probable causes for weak national legislation and even weaker enforcement of national law and international treaties. We will show that in RA, environmental crime begins prior to the law-making stage. A legalistic approach to environmental crime would therefore be too narrow. In other words, environmental laws are undoubtedly violated. Yet the bigger concern is with the lax environmental standards themselves. Environmental crime therefore begins with the illicit processes of drafting and passing these laws, involving the collusion of government officials, parliamentarians, and the country’s economic elite. Non-action, of course, should be considered an environmental crime as well. Looking the other way while mining companies destroy Armenia’s environment and risk citizens’ lives and health is more than just negligence when it is clear that non-action is intentional.