Governor Chris Sununu, 2017 (US Department of Agriculture photo by Lance Cheung)

Sununu Family Continues to Support Azerbaijan through Mining in Karabakh Region

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CONCORD, N.H. – As the Mirror-Spectator reported last November, the Anglo Asian Mining company, in which Republican politician John Henry Sununu, father of current New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu, is the second largest shareholder, plans to resume mining gold in Zangelan province and possibly two other areas that were previously under Armenian control.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev with former Governor John H. Sununu pictured at a meeting in Washington, DC in March 2016 (Photo: trend.az)

John Sununu, a former governor of New Hampshire and former chief of staff to President George H. W. Bush, owns a 9.38 percent stake in the company. After the end of the 2020 Artsakh War, the Sununu family increased its direct involvement in the company, when in December of last year, Anglo Asian Mining welcomed Michael Sununu to its board as a non-executive director. Michael is the son of former governor John Sununu and is a founder and manager of Sununu Enterprises and Sununu Holdings.

Anglo Asian Mining’s predecessor company, controlled by the same CEO, Reza Vaziri, signed an agreement with the Azerbaijani government for rights in 1997 to six mines, including three which were then under Armenian control. As a result of the recent Artsakh war, two of these areas are under full Azerbaijani control. A third area, Sotk/Soyudlu, is on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijani controlled Kelbajar.

In the company’s quarterly report of April 13, 2021, CEO Vaziri states: “A recent visit to the Vejnaly [Kovsakan] contract area in Zangilan has identified some high grade ore stockpiles and the feasibility of transporting this ore to Gedabek for processing is being evaluated.” A May 20, 2021 Anglo Asian Mining report further elaborates: “However, due to safety and security concerns, access to Vejnaly and the other restored areas by company personnel remains somewhat restricted. The determination of their final status continues to be reviewed by the government of Azerbaijan.”

Anglo Asian Mining also has an eye on the Kashen deposit with molybdenum and copper in northern Martakert (Kyzlbulag), part of the territory of the Artsakh Republic, which at present is under the control of Russian peacekeepers. As the company website states, “our access to Kyzlbulag will depend on the final resolution of the status of Nagorno Karabakh.”

Non-executive chairman Khosrov Zamani in the May 20 report concludes, “The restoration of the three contract areas in the formerly occupied territories and Karabakh opens up further opportunities for the Company. The contract areas cover a total of 900 square kilometers and contain existing mines and have exceptional exploration potential. Our production sharing agreement is in good standing and will be reset to ‘year zero’ for each of these contract areas once access has been granted. The political situation is still developing and the Company is closely monitoring events. The Government of Azerbaijan has also commenced building infrastructure in the areas such as roads, railways and airports.”  The same report also notes, “Development will commence when the Company receives notice in accordance with its PSA [Production Sharing Agreement] that the Organisation on Security and Cooperation in Europe (‘OSCE’) (or comparable international organisation) has acknowledged a liberation of the previously occupied territories and the Company is satisfied the districts are secure.”

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Significantly, the government of Azerbaijan takes a hefty cut of Anglo Asian Mining’s profits due to the existing PSA, while the economic ties of the Sununu family with Azerbaijan naturally lead to political consequences. John Sununu serves as a member of the Honorary Council of Advisors of the United States-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce and in 2017 received an award of appreciation from this organization for his “contribution to US-Azerbaijani diplomatic relations.”

Anglo-Asian’s own website attempts to present Azerbaijan in a good light. For example, it glosses over the many problems of Azerbaijan’s undemocratic and authoritarian government with statements like “Azerbaijan is a multiparty democracy and presidential republic with a separation of the executive and legislative bodies. It is among the region’s most stable countries.”

The Azerbaijani connection with the Sununu’s is apparently not one way. BGR Government Affairs, which lobbied for the Republic of Azerbaijan, donated $1000 to Chris Sununu’s campaign for governor in 2017 and hosted a fundraising reception.

A campaign by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) calling on Governor Chris Sununu to divest his family’s shares in this company, calling this investment “blood money,” has not received any response so far, according to the ANCA’s Washington D.C. office. Attempts this May by the Mirror-Spectator to contact Michael and Chris Sununu also received no response and it does not appear that in general Governor Sununu has made any public comments on the Artsakh war.

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