Ambassador Richard Mills’ Remarks at Sustainable Mining Conference

Minister Karayan, Minister Manukyan, CEO Edgar, distinguished representatives of local mining companies and U.S. corporations, and guests.  It is a pleasure for me to join you today.

Last year, in a speech I delivered to my friends at the American Chamber of Commerce, I outlined my four top priorities as ambassador – those areas where my Embassy, and I personally, intend to place a great deal of focus. One of those priorities is to deepen the trade relationship between our two countries.

Last month, the Government of Armenia held an Investment Forum in New York, where they showcased the enormous potential of this country. I traveled to New York and joined Department of Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary Michael Lally at the Forum to underscore the Embassy’s support for this effort to attract investors to Armenia.

Because strengthening the U.S.-Armenian trade relationship is one of the main priorities of our Embassy, the Embassy has organized several commercial events over the past year.

In September 2015, we held our first-ever “U.S. Franchise Day” to introduce American franchise concepts to Armenian entrepreneurs and business partners. This past March, we organized a seminar, in partnership with the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office, on how Armenia businesses can expand Armenia’s exports to the U.S. by using the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Program.  Then in May, we brought several U.S. companies to Yerevan to learn more about the investment climate and business opportunities in Armenia.

And today, we’re focusing on the mining sector, because as you all know, mining is of the leading sectors in the Armenian economy and a major contributor to Armenia’s GDP and the country’s exports. Mining represents real opportunities for Armenia. And these opportunities are not just ideas on paper; they are successful enterprises that are already in operation and looking to expand. We want to see them grow and, at the same time preserve the country’s natural beauty, invest in the communities where they operate, and protect their workforce.

In the past two years, Armenia has attracted two large U.S. investments: ContourGlobal’s $180 million acquisition of the Vorotan Hydroelectric plant and Lydian International’s $325 million investment at its Amulsar gold mine project, with financing from New York-based Orion Mine Finance and Denver-based Resource Capital Fund. These investments not only mean jobs and tax revenue, but also bring to Armenia modern, Western standards of mining safety and environmental protection.

Mining, done responsibly and transparently in line with the highest international environmental and social standards, can be a successful investment and also be of benefit to the Armenian people. Sustainable mining, using the latest technology and equipment, can be safe for mining workers and protect of Armenia’s beautiful environment. This is why we invited several U.S.companies, leaders in their fields, to visit Armenia and present their next-generation products and services. I am extremely pleased to see representatives from IBM, Modular Mining Systems, Caterpillar/Zeppelin, Honeywell, Terra Source Global, GE, and Dow here today.

Also joining us for today’s conference are representatives from 35 mining companies currently operating in Armenia. To these representatives, may I say that I am delighted to see so many of you here today.  Your presence and your interest in the technologies that these U.S. companies offer demonstrate your commitment to safe, productive, efficient, and ecological mining in Armenia.  By exploring ways to integrate the latest equipment and technology, you can build your operations while safeguarding your workers and Armenia’s natural resources.

I mentioned earlier that today’s event helps further one of my priorities as ambassador: to expand and deepen the trade ties between the U.S. and Armenia. But today is also about another one of my priorities – partnering with Armenia in the fight against corruption. Achieving success in the struggle against corruption is key to improving the business environment in Armenia. As I have said on many occasions, and have heard echoed among many in the private and public sectors here in Armenia, the country and its people suffer when there are powerful interests that have disproportionate economic and political influence, and when competition among businesses is not fair.

Corruption has a negative impact on the economy, undermines democracy and rule of law, breeds instability and mistrust in institutions, and threatens national security.

Despite the very real challenges, we have seen some positive steps in the fight against corruption, and the mining sector is one such example.  We welcome the government’s commitment to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which requires that the government, civil society, and mining industry in Armenia come together to bring more transparency to the mining sector and foster the clean, sustainable development of the industry.

Through the Embassy’s USAID Mission, we will continue to work with Armenia as it prepares to submit its application for consideration by the 2017 EITI Secretariat.

Business ties to U.S. companies, which are bound by the anti-bribery provisions of a U.S. law known as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, can also help reduce opportunities for corruption. To the U.S. companies here today, I urge you to perform the necessary due diligence and strictly adhere to the law as you negotiate your business relationships.

As discussions and conversations evolve between the U.S. corporations and Armenian mining companies here today, let me take this opportunity to emphasize that the U.S. Embassy stands ready to provide assistance as needed as you move forward with mutually beneficial deals and partnerships.

In closing, I would like to express my gratitude, and the gratitude of the Embassy, for our strong partnerships with HSBC Bank, the Ministry of Economic Development and Investments, the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, the EBRD, and others for making today’s ambitious conference a reality.   Thank you.