Danish ECA EKF moves to hide environmental negligence in Armenia

(Open Democracy, London, 28 July 2020) After a Danish-funded mine caused serious environmental damage in Armenia, the Danish state has been less than forthcoming on failed due diligence, transparency and compensation. As a result of the Danish-funded mine construction, the Teghut mine caused the pollution of local rivers, with damage so severe that local farmers and fruit growers lost their livelihoods. A dam containing liquid waste from the mine still threatens to collapse and bury a nearby village. Now, some seven years after the original loan was approved, Denmark’s business ministry has quietly introduced an extensive duty of confidentiality for EKF employees as part of amending the law governing the export credit agency. Workers at EKF can now be severely punished - including up to two years in prison - if they break this confidentiality. In 2017, EKF withdrew its export guarantee for the project, citing environmental standards, but a 2016 freedom of information request to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs showed that EKF was aware in August 2013 of the risks the mine expansion would pose to the environment, as well as “democratic deficiencies in the Armenian decision-making and approval process” of the mine. The amendments seem to overrule Denmark’s environmental information legislation, in order to benefit EKF’s business activities. EKF and other companies have an obligation under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to avoid harm against people and the environment and, if damage occurs, ensure compensation to those affected. An internal 2019 report by the European Union Delegation to Armenia stated that Lydian International and the US and UK and governments have pressured Armenia over local protests which stopped construction of another controversial gold mining project. EKT is also subject to the OECD's Common Approaches which address the potential environmental and social impacts of ECA supported projects.