YEREVAN -- An Armenian court has rejected a lawsuit against a controversial mining project that ecologists say would further harm Armenia's shrinking forests, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.
The environmental group Ekodar asked the administrative court earlier this year to annul government decisions that allowed a private mining company to exploit a massive copper and molybdenum deposit in Armenia's northern Lori region, known as the Teghut deposit.
The court on March 24 ruled for the government in the dispute, saying that Ekodar is not even entitled to take legal action against the Teghut-related decisions. The verdict came just one day after the court opened public hearings on the case.
Judge Artsrun Mirzoyan controversially decided on March 23 to adjudicate the dispute under an "accelerated procedure" that bars litigants from making oral presentations of their cases and asking each other questions in court.
Hayk Alumian, an Ekodar lawyer, said this was done to minimize the public resonance of the suit. "I knew that there is pressure on the court and that the court will not agree to rule in our favor," he told RFE/RL. "But at least I expected a public trial during which we would present our arguments and hear the arguments of the opposite side."
In their lawsuit, Ekodar lawyers said the Lichtenstein-registered company Armenian Copper Program received official authorization to proceed with the project in violation of environmental protection laws and government regulations. The Environment Ministry and other government agencies that were being sued by Ekodar deny this.
Ekodar Chairman Hrayr Savzian expressed hope that the brief court battle will nonetheless bring some international attention to the Teghut dispute.
Ekodar argues that the commercial exploitation of the Teghut deposit would result in the destruction of 357 hectares of forest and some 128,000 trees.