ArmInfo. Lydian Armenia is changing approaches to implementing corporate social responsibility in the communities adjacent to the Amulsar gold deposit. The emphasis is not on the charitable element, but on the development and implementation of effective, long- term projects, the success of which will not depend on the company's assistance in the future. Manager for social development of Lydian Armenia Nara Ghazaryan said in an interview to ArmInfo.
"Soon construction work will be completed, and we will begin to operate the field. Along with that, a new strategy will be developed, in which the main emphasis will be put on the business case of the company. Thus, we plan to develop programs useful not just for communities, but effective in essence and in tune with our strategy of social development of the region. For example, we will look if there are risks of negative social impact within the framework of our initiatives, we will work to reduce them. We do not want to implement exclusively "good" programs, we intend to work on projects that reduce the dependence on Lydian Armenia." she said.
In this context Ghazaryan explained that the company annually allocates about $ 240 thousand for the implementation of social programs. "This year the amount will not change," she stressed. However, the financing of programs by the company will gradually decrease. "The company within four communities conducted a survey, which the villagers see their village after a couple of years. For example, the population wants to start production in rural areas. And we, for our part, intend to help in the implementation, but we will not fully finance it. And by proposing a program that will ultimately contribute to the realization of the goal. Lydian Armenia will take 50% of financing, and gradually this ratio will decrease. In addition, we will provide technical assistance. This is our new approach. Because the life of the deposit is short-lived and we want the dependence on the company to decrease," she explained.
Summing up the year in terms of program effectiveness, N. Ghazaryan said that in 2017 the company managed to assist in the promotion of 31 small businesses, of which 65-70% accounted for the already operating business. "We noticed the following trend. People began to think in communities more creatively. Interest is growing," she said. However, in this regard, the social development manager stressed that, as a rule, the beneficiaries of programs within their business projects see the client in the sole person of Lydian Armenia. Therefore, she said, in the future the company's programs will be aimed at excluding dependence on us. "There is such an expression expectation management - when we help to found a business, and we are told "help with implementation." But this is not our function. The company gives the necessary knowledge, tools, makes a start-up, and then you already invest your own money and promote the business and do not rely on Lydian Armenia as the main customer for your business. Although we try people in this, providing the necessary professional advice and connecting them with our contractors," she noted. Therefore, even today, from the general budget of social programs, the lion's share falls on projects that create additional sources of income for the population, followed by programs aimed at improving infrastructure and educational projects.
N. Ghazarayan said that with the support of Lydian Armenia, about 30 greenhouse farms were created in the communities, 13 of them only in the past year: 8 in Gndevaz, and 5 in Saravan. As a result, it was possible to collect 12 tons of cucumbers, which is a very good indicator, given the small area of greenhouses. For one season - 300-400 thousand drams of additional income were received by farmers from one greenhouse, she stressed.
As part of the educational programs implemented by the company, Lydian Armenia provides financial support for obtaining high-quality education in the field of metallurgy and geology. Several students from the communities adjacent to the field became beneficiaries of this program. "Thus, we want to provide a good education for young people." At the same time, the second year in a row, the company in Jermuk and Ketchut implements social programs involving women and children who make various art objects from plastic and other wastes. "Last year, for the realization of this idea, we registered a public organization and intend to put this business on a serious long-term business basis, which is aimed at selling products within the tourism industry," she said.
In addition, N. Ghazaryan noted that the company will expand the program of artificial insemination of cattle, which was implemented last year in Gndevaz and Gorayka, and this year there are already applications from Ketchut and Saravan. She noted that the born cattle as a result of artificial insemination in weight is an order of magnitude larger than the naturally born and the productivity of milk is much higher. In addition, several times a year the company conducts specialized seminars that are aimed at increasing the knowledge of farmers in the treatment, care and feeding of livestock.
In the framework of tourism stimulation programs, according to Ghazaryan, the company sponsored the Chess Tournament in Jermuk, thanks to which 700-800 people visited the community from different countries, including France, Ukraine, Georgia, India, etc. over the 20 days. In this vein, she added that the company implemented a pilot program, in which 8 hotels and 3 restaurants took part. The program provided for seminars for the retraining of guides, and also aimed to improve the quality of service in restaurants and hotels to international standards.
For 2 years, she said, own business activities due to the support of "Lydian" launched 55 business entities. In addition, during this period, for the first time in many years, there was no fixed migration, only temporary (in Gorayk and Gndevaz), which is gradually declining. She noted that for 6 years of work positive changes in terms of community welfare have been evident - the number of vehicles, economic agents - businesses, garden areas, etc., increased.
In addition, N. Ghazaryan noted that since October 2016 and as of January 2018, - the company has created 1100 jobs, of which 40% are from residents adjacent to the community deposit, 18-20% of them are women. "In the future, we plan to ensure 100% involvement of community residents in the ranks of workers who do not require specialized education. Our strategy involves the involvement of local labor. At the same time, it is extremely important for us to ensure transparency of activities, guided by both international and local standards," she concluded.
Summing up the conversation, N. Ghazaryan noted that the programs were fully justified, and the set goals were achieved, in particular, from the point of view of providing additional sources of income for each family.
Lydian Armenia is a subsidiary of Lydian International, whose shares are quoted on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The company's shareholders are large international institutional investors from the United States, Great Britain, a number of European countries, including EBRD. The Amulsar project is the largest industrial project in Armenia for the development of a gold ore deposit with a total value of more than $ 370 million. In August 2016, the construction phase started. The exploitation of the field is planned to begin this year. Preliminary work has been carried out since 2006. The operation life of the Amulsar field will be 10 years and 4 months, an annual average of 200,000 ounces of gold (about 10 million tons of ore) will be produced. Amulsar deposit is the second largest in Armenia.