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Published: July 31st 2012
After the little France holiday I expected to be doing a bit of engineering work in Yorkshire for a while. However, two days after arriving back from Paris I was on the way to Azerbaijan for some more gold mine work.
This wasn’t quite as unexpected as it sounds, I had already been offered the Azerbaijan work and I’d already gone through the rigmarole of acquiring the visa, I just didn’t expect to be going so soon - excessive rains leading to the postponement of a lot of construction work in the UK this summer.
Similar to the Mexico blog a few blogs ago (which was another construction project on a gold mine), I don’t want to go into what I was doing too much – construction of a heap leach pad, a tailings dam and a pipeline – I just wanted to post a few photos.
I definitely enjoyed my month in Azerbaijan more than I did the time in Mexico. I was much busier which meant the time passed more quickly. The ex-pats working at the mine were a great bunch and the Azeris were very welcoming despite the lack
of a shared language. A lot of people speak Russian so trying to communicate in the bit of Slovene that I speak was occasionally successful but generally I just waved my arms about. I managed to learn a few words of Azeri that will be of questionable use in the future if I meet an Azeri: “Too much sand, bad. Good rock, take to dam. Tea please.”
The camp was passable and, unlike the other ex-pats, I didn’t mind the food. The sheep lung stew wasn’t my favourite but the carrot and honey jam was delicious. There wasn’t the variety that was on offer in Mexico but everything was fresh and healthy. Though I did miss fruit.
Unlike the mine in Mexico which was in the absolute middle of nowhere, the mine in Azerbaijan is beside a town. I had to pass through the town daily on my way to areas of construction and it was interesting to see some actual Azeri life. Colleagues from Baku or other areas of Azerbaijan tell me that this region, in the west of the country, is about twenty years behind the rest of the country. It’s true
that the houses, despite being large, were quite primitive looking, and most people are involved in agriculture – or they work on the mine.
The surrounding area is beautiful with rolling mountains and hills covered in wild flowers. I was greeted with the smell of wild thyme every morning as I started work and within a few hours was tasting it as the labourers always brewed some up into tea with boiled river water – hopefully sourced from upstream of the cyanide ponds.
Telling people about my visit to Armenia last year raised a lot of eyebrows. It was very interesting to talk to Azeris about the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and hear their opinions about the region in general. I never managed to get into much of a discussion about politics in Azerbaijan though.
Almost definitely I will be back to Azerbaijan to do another stint at the gold mine before I start the Master’s. I would also love to visit the rest of the country as a tourist. I only managed to see a little corner but I was reminded of my fantastic trip to the region last year (Armenia,
Georgia and Turkey). I’d like to think the people would be as welcoming to a tourist as they are to a colleague.
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