Vallex Group companies congratulate metallurgists and miners on their professional holiday. We attach importance to the contribution of miners and metallurgists to the development and strengthening of the Armenian economy and we are confident that in the future the mining industry and metallurgy will find their rightful place in the economic life of Armenia.
Due to the fact that the most ancient production enterprise in the mining and metallurgy field that has survived to this day is the Alaverdi Copper Smelter, the base of which symbolizes the beginning of a new historical stage of the industry in the region. On the Day of the Miner and Metallurgist and the 250th anniversary of the Alaverdi Copper Smelter, we present a brief overview of the main historical facts of the biography of the plant.
Alaverdi Copper Smelting Plant was founded by invited Greek specialists together with Armenian specialists in 1770. In Alaverdi, copper production experienced a rapid rise during the reign of the French, and then during the establishment of Soviet power.
In 1900 Alaverdi has started to use furnaces operating on a new technology, which were built adjacently to the Tiflis-Alexandropol railway, under construction, where the Alaverdi copper smelter is still located. All service production workshops were built in the neighborhood. The proximity of the plant to the railway made it possible to concentrate all metallurgical processes from the village of Madan on the present territory of Alaverdi. Since the 1900s, a new aggregate began to be used in copper production: converters, operating according to the most advanced technology of that time. During the same period, with the use of the latest copper casting methods in Alaverdi Copper Smelter, production volumes increased, and in 1913 it was one of the best factories by international standards. In 1900-1914 directorate, all engineers at mines and factories, as well as managers of all workshops were Europeans. In the 1910s, the mines and factories of Alaverdi were considered one of the largest industrial enterprises in the Caucasus, where, in total, about 2,800 workers worked. A small hospital with 8 beds was opened in Alaverdi, where one doctor and two paramedics were invited from Tbilisi. There was one canteen, and more than ten wine houses. French entrepreneurs built dormitories for workers, two-story and three-story European-style apartment buildings were built for the engineering and management staff in the vicinity of the historic Sanahin Bridge and on the current Spandarian Street.
1914 as a result of the outbreak of the First World War, production volumes fell, and in 1917 compared with the pre-war 1913, it decreased 2.7 times and on October 1, 1917 work at the mines and the plant was suspended. At that time, the total number of workers was about 2,600.
The October Revolution of 1917 also had a negative impact on copper production. Thus, the thirty-year French period of copper production in the Lori region and Alaverdi ended.
Decree of the Revolutionary Committee of the newly created Soviet Republic on January 11, 1921, determined that subsoil and minerals are considered the property of the people. According to the decision of January 21, the enterprises of Alaverdi are transferred to the Soviet national economy of Armenia.
On December 10, 1931, reconstruction of the Alaverdi copper smelting plant began. According to the action plan, created on May 31, the production of pure copper was planned to increase to 6,000 tons per year. According to this program, it was planned not only to reconstruct the plant, but also to give a wide scope to housing and development of Alaverdi: establish new schools, cultural institutions, etc. On June 12, 1931, in Alaverdi city, Aghasi Khanjyan, the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communistic Party of Armenia, held an outgoing meeting with the government. They discussed the process of reconstruction of the plant, which was completed in 1932. With the start of World War II in 1941, many metallurgists went to the front; their wives and children replaced them. It was extremely hard to produce copper and molybdenum in the first years of the war. After the capture by the Germans, Donbass stopped the supply of important metallurgical materials, in particular steel, coal, etc. Alaverdi metallurgists and rationalizers were able to produce these important materials on the spot and organize their supply to Siberian factories. In these hard times of the war, under the leadership of Moscow specialists, a new chemical plant was built, which was put into operation in 1944. In 1949, the copper smelter, operating during the war and being destroyed, was reconstructed. In the 1970s, the mines of Akhtala, Shamlugh, Alaverdi, as well as the copper and chemical factories were combined, and the mining and metallurgical plant which employed more than 4500 people was created. In the 1980s, again a task was set to recover the plant. Particularly, electro contact metallurgical furnaces were installed, the sulfuric acid plant was reconstructed, and more modern towers were installed. In the postwar years, until 1989, the Alaverdi Mining and Metallurgical Combine was the economic generator of the region. Dozen of agricultural facilities in the villages of the region, roads, and residential buildings in Alaverdi were built on the plant’s financial resources.
As a result of the environmental movement in 1988, the copper smelter of Alaverdi was closed and destroyed. This irreversibly affected not only the city of Alaverdi, but also the region: unemployment, emigration, poverty…
In 1997, Valery Mejlumyan, a native of Alaverdi, who had his own business in Russia those years, purchased the shares of Alaverdi copper smelter, and Vallex group entered to Armenia. Thus, the project Armenian Copper Program, which was to restore the copper production in Armenia, started and got the approval of the Armenian Government. The first real result was the resumption and stabilization of production, about 1,100 jobs have been created, the repayment of wages accumulated over the years was made. After, the stable-paid wages had a multiplier effect: the social situation became stable, shops, food facilities, hotels, taxis, and other services that were completely closed in the early 90s, reopened.
The long-term goal of the project was to build a new modern plant in Alaverdi with a high level of environmental safety. For this purpose, negotiations were conducted with a large international company from China. Within the framework of this cooperation, a number of mutual visits, discussions, and pre-design works were carried out.
Unfortunately, in the summer of 2018, the company had to stop operating the copper smelter. In such a situation, Vallex continued to pay the wages to about 600 workers in the non-operating plant for 6 months, as the sense of responsibility of the management towards the staff was more than just an employer-employee relationship. Over the past 20 years, Vallex Group companies have invested a total of USD 34 million to support copper production. Various social charitable programs for AMD 3.5 billion have been implemented through the ”Manes” Charitable Foundation. In order to save the part of 600 employees, in 2019 Vallex launched a production restructuring program in Alaverdi. In particular, new equipment was ordered to expand the production of shredders. Design works began on the production of copper products with raw materials imported, but this also couldn’t be implemented due to factors beyond the control of the company.
For centuries, mining and metallurgy have played a huge role in the economic life of Armenia, miners and metallurgists have lived on this land. During this historical period, the 250-year-old Alaverdi plant, a giant who with honor “gets bread out of a stone” to fulfill its mission, is now experiencing a crisis. Nevertheless, Alaverdi people are confident that the plant will appear again in hands of those interested and concerned about the economic future of the city and the region, the city will become a technological center again, in the advanced metallurgical world, mining and metallurgy will again live here in favor of the region.
Mass media and PR department of “Vallex” group companies