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Will Berridge | The tale of the copper town

Alaverdi, Armenia – July 2012. 41.1333° N, 44.6500° E, Alaverdi, Northern Armenia, population 6,000.

Day and night freight trains depart the town of Alaverdi in Northern Armenia with a cargo of pure copper and slowly make their way across the nearby Georgian border and onwards to Russia; taking with them any hope that the people have of economic survival. At the peak of Soviet Armenia almost 50,000 tons of copper were produced in Alaverdi.

Now the once prosperous Vallex copper factory is in a state of rapid decline, from employing 3,000 men at its peak, there are now only 250 employees left. Facing a declining population, a lack of opportunities, unemployment and serious health problems – due in part to the constant stream of pollution and smoke pumped into the air from the factory – Alaverdi faces many challenges to survive in the post Soviet era.

Alaverdi, Armenia – July 2012. The Vallex Copper factory.

Alaverdi, Armenia – July 2012. Sasoon Mosinyan is 60 and runs a small farm about 100 meters from the pipe, yet he continues to rides on his horse amongst the SO2 that descends over his home.

Alaverdi, Armenia – July 2012. Sasoon Mosinyan is adamant that despite the smoke that he lives amongst, he and his family are healthy. The local people are fearful of talking as the factory provides the sole income for the town and without the factory then there would be nobody for Sasoon to sell his milk and cheese too.

Alaverdi, Armenia – July 2012. Erik Petrosyan is of Greek descendancy, his family was one of the first settlers in Alaverdi, but with few opportunities for employment in the town, Erik has chosen to teach the remaining youth of Alaverdi how to be healthy.

Alaverdi, Armenia – July 2012. Boris Sahakyan, a young boy from Alaverdi, trains at the gym.

Alaverdi, Armenia – July 2012. Young children take a midday sleep at School number 5, one of the few Schools in town, which is sponsored by the Vallex group, the owners of the factory.

Alaverdi, Armenia – July 2012. A young girl plays on her own at the Vallex sponsored infants’ school.

Alaverdi, Armenia – July 2012. As part of the Manes/Vallex charitable foundation’s initiatives, two canteens serve the town for a maximum of 100 of the most disadvantaged people, food amounting to little more than bread and cheese and a bowl of soup is given out on a daily basis. Those that are on the waiting list will have to hope that one of the lucky 100 will find employment or more likely will pass away

Alaverdi, Armenia – July 2012. A young girl, Sarahart neighbourhood.

Alaverdi, Armenia – July 2012. The last freight train of the day.

Alaverdi, Armenia – July 2012. Khrushchev period housing blocks numbers 12 and 14, Sarahart neighborhood.

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