The GeoProMining gold mine

By Susan Badalian

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Armenia’s largest gold mine was unable to restart production operations for the third consecutive day on Monday, April 17, due to what its management and workers described as cross-border fire from nearby Azerbaijani army positions.

The Sotk mine, employing more than 700 people, is right on the volatile border with Azerbaijan.

“The mine’s operations were halted on Saturday morning and have still not been relaunched due to periodic gunfire,” said Ruzanna Grigoryan, a spokeswoman for the Russian-owned company GeoProMining Gold developing the massive gold deposit.

Grigoryan said that 300 workers making up the company’s day shift were evacuated on Monday morning after coming under fire again.

“As soon as the day shift tried to get to work this morning, yesterday morning and Saturday morning gunshots resumed and we had to evacuate the workers for security considerations,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

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“We gathered to go to work today but they didn’t let us,” said one of the workers. ”As soon as there is movement at the mine and it’s about to work, they open fire.”

The Armenian Defense Ministry accused Azerbaijani forces of opening fire late on Sunday at its troops deployed near the Sotk mine. None of them was hurt, he said, adding that the situation there was “relatively stable” the following morning.

The Azerbaijani military denied violating the ceasefire in the area.

Mining operations at Sotk were brought to a halt three days after at least three Azerbaijani and four Armenian soldiers were killed in fighting at another section of the heavily militarized border. No further major skirmishes have been reported from that section since then.

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