The Institute of Botany recently opened a new glasshouse and outdoor rockery at Sevan Botanical Garden. The press office of Geoteam CJSC has told ArmInfo that this is the first visible step in a comprehensive program to preserve Amulsar population of Potentilla porphyrantha. The work is being undertaken by Geoteam CJSC in cooperation with the
Potentilla porphyrantha is a small, whitish flower that grows on rocky slopes and scree fields in high alpine climates. The species is considered rare and is protected by Armenian Red Book, which documents limited habitats above 3,300 meters. More recently, Geoteam discovered Potentilla porphyrantha growing in previously unknown habitats at lower elevations on Amulsar Mountain. As part of Geoteam's plans to develop the Amulsar gold project, it is funding a comprehensive programme for Potentilla porphyrantha preservation.
Geoteam together with Cambridge University Botanical Garden, the Institute of Botany of National Academy of Science of RA and Treweek Environmental Consultants have developed a plan for Potentilla porphyrantha that is designed to preserve and protect the species during construction and operation of the Amulsar mine, and then ultimate restore plants to the area.
The plan follows international best practices and was outlined by Geoteam in its Environmental Impact Assessment approved in 2014 and Environmental and Social Impact Assessment published earlier this year. Geoteam estimates its investment in the overall project will be more than 500,000 USD.
Some 6,000 Potentilla porphyrantha have been identified in areas outside the mine's footprint or within protected zones already established by Geoteam. Plants in these areas will be protected while research and other activities are carried out over the next several years. The Sevan glasshouse and rockery were built to receive about 1,500 plants for research purposes.
Two PhD candidates are been sought to participate in the research with the Institute of Botany and Cambridge University. A program has been devised to determine the optimum conditions for the preservation and reintroduction of the species. One PhD candidate will focus on propagation and preservation while the other carries out genetic studies at the University of Cambridge. Geoteam will fund these programs and hopes both PhD students will be Armenian.
Moving Potentilla porphyrantha to Sevan started earlier this fall after receiving approval from the Armenian Government. Translocation of a species is allowable by Armenian legislation when found in places not previously identified as its habitat, as is the case with Potentilla porphyrantha at Amulsar. Botanical Gardens are one of three approved translocation destinations in Armenia. The glasshouse and rockery constructed by Geoteam in Sevan Botanical Garden are designed to provide a suitable climate and allow continual monitoring by on-site staff.
Geoteam is seeing success in other areas of the Potentilla porphyrantha programme. Several thousand seeds were harvested from plants during the move to Sevan. This supply of seeds will be used for propagation studies and also ensure a viable seed source is retained. Regional expeditions outside the Amulsar area have located two additional Potentilla porphyrantha habitats not previously documented.
Geoteam CJSC is a 100% owned subsidiary of Lydian International Limited. Geoteam CJSC was incorporated in 2005 and after an extensive campaign of geological exploration in Armenia discovered what is now its flagship project; the Amulsar mountain. Since 2006, the investments in exploration and other operations in Amulsar has amounted to nearly 70 million USD. Amulsar is a new gold discovery, the first for over 20 years in Armenia. Geoteam CJSC is carrying out geological exploration in the Amulsar area of RA Vayots Dzor Marz, under a Prospecting License, granted in 2006 by RA Ministry of Nature Protection. The key shareholders of the Lydian are IFC, EBRD and Newmont Mining Corporation. The feasibility study demonstrates Amulsar as a compelling opportunity for a large scale, low cost operation utilizing open pit mining and conventional heap leach processing. Highlights include: total recoverable gold of 2.1 million ounces over a 10.4 year mine life; gold production averaging over 200,000 ounces per year; initial capital costs of $426 million; low all-in sustaining costs of $701 per ounce of gold; 84% gold recoveries and 2.8:1 strip ratio; accelerated after tax-cash flows to support early payback and project financing. The Amulsar project envisages creation of 1,500 jobs in the course of construction and 700 jobs throughout the entire operation of the mine within the next 10 years.