MAC: Mines and Communities

Kyrgyzstan protestors storm parliament over Canadian gold mine

Published by MAC on 2012-10-08
Source:, Reuters

There have been several protests, including direct action, mounted against Kyrgyzstan's Canadian-owned  Kumtor gold mine, since Almazbek Atambayev was elected president of the country in December 2011. See: Mining conflicts in Kyrgyzstan

The operation  has been criticised on numerous grounds: for its environmental impacts,  including a massive cyanide spill in 1998 ; encroachment on neighbouring land; and robbing the state of desperately-needed income.

Earlier this month, several hundred demonstrators, led by three members of the opposition party, stormed the Kyrgyzstan "White House", demanding  the mine be nationalised.

In response, the country's prime minister assured Kumtor's owners, Centerra Gold, that its investment is safe.

But for how much longer?

For background to the Kumtor mine, see: "Come to Grief: the Kumtor Gold Mine in Kyrgyzstan", chapter 6 of "The Risks We Run", International Books, 2005. Available for cost of postage only from:

Protest against Centerra Gold in Kyrgyzstan turns violent

Cecilia Jamasmie

3 October 2012

Demonstrators clashed with police and tried breaking into a building housing the parliament and government offices in Kyrgyzstan's capital Wednesday, as they demanded the nationalization of the Kumtor gold mine, owned by Canadian Centerra Gold.

According to Associated Press, several hundred protesters rallied against Centerra's operations, accused of being the source of a series of toxic spills in past years, including a cyanide spill into a river.

The mob asked prime minister and other top officials to quit.

Shares of Centerra were down almost 2% on Wednesday mid-morning to $12.14.

The protest comes three months after the ex-Soviet country's parliament backed proposals to review Centerra's operating licence.

The company is a significant employer and taxpayer in the Central Asian country and a key contributor to the Kyrgyz economy.

In fact, the Kumtor open pit gold mine accounts for 60% of the nation's industrial output and, according to the company, it is the largest gold mine operated in Central Asia by a Western-based company.

The Canadian miner was granted the license for Kumtor under Kyrgyzstan deposed leader, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was accused of corruption.

Since it started running in 1997, Kumtor has generated $1.9 billion for Kyrgyzstan and produced more than 8.4 million oz. of gold.

Kyrgyzstan, a country of five million people on China's western border, has become infamous in recent years because it hosts a U.S. airbase used to support military operations in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Kyrgyzstan police arrest MPs over mine protests

By Olga Dzyubenko


4 October 2012

BISHKEK  - Kyrgyz police arrested three members of parliament on Thursday who had led a crowd that tried to storm the government headquarters in a protest over a Canadian-owned gold mine.

Wednesday's clashes between police and supporters of the opposition Ata Zhurt party were the most violent in the capital Bishkek since the April 2010 revolt that ousted then-president Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

The protesters want the mine, crucial to Kyrgyzstan's fragile economy, to be nationalized.

The three parliamentarians - Kamchibek Tashiyev, Sadyr Zhaparov and Talant Mamytov - are being held on suspicion of trying to seize power. Prosecutors have 48 hours to decide whether to charge them.

On Thursday about 1,000 supporters rallied in the main square of the southern city of Jalalabad, their power base, to demand their release. There was no violence.

"Parliament, the president, the government should resign, because they are not resolving the Kumtor issue," one demonstrator shouted through a megaphone.

The attempted storming of Kyrgyzstan's "White House" has also rekindled north-south tension in the country of 5.5 million people, which borders China and has U.S. and Russian military air bases.

Two presidents of the Central Asian state have been toppled since 2005 after attacks on the same government building. Though Bishkek was quiet on Thursday, authorities are wary of protests spreading in the country's poorer and more nationalist south.

Wednesday's protest began as a peaceful rally in favor of nationalizing the Kumtor mine, owned by Canada's Centerra Gold. The Kyrgyz state itself is a 33 percent shareholder in Centerra under a Bakiyev-era contract drawn up in 2009.

Calls to nationalize Kumtor, the largest gold mine operated in Central Asia by a Western-based concern, risk scaring off potential investors needed to revive a shrinking economy.

Prime Minister Zhantoro Satybaldiyev, appointed last month, needs foreign cash to make good on pledges to alleviate poverty and achieve economic growth. Per capita GDP in Kyrgyzstan is less than a tenth of that in its oil-rich neighbor Kazakhstan.

Satybaldiyev visited the Kumtor mine on Monday and gave assurances the venture would not be nationalized.

Calls for More Protests

Tashiyev, who won 14 percent of the vote and finished third in an October 2011 presidential election, had urged the crowd to follow him during the clashes with riot police on Wednesday.

Ata Zhurt party spokesman Nurgazy Anarkulov said he believed the detentions were politically motivated and called for mass protests in the south.

"They are true patriots fighting for the interests of the people and for Kyrgyzstan's future," he told a news conference in Bishkek. "We believe the arrest of our leaders is political persecution."

Turdimamat Mamytov, father of one of the three arrested men, demanded the release of his son and criticized President Almazbek Atambayev, who has deepened already close ties with Russia since assuming the presidency in December.

"Such a president should not be in power," Mamytov said.

(Writing by Dmitry Solovyov and Robin Paxton; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Horse killing triggers violence at Chinese mine in Kyrgyzstan

Marc Howe

26 October 2012

A violent confrontation has erupted between Chinese nationals and local residents at a gold mine in the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan.

Global Times reports that 450 villagers living near the Taldy-Bulak Levoberejny gold mine threatened to destroy the offices of a Chinese company after the horse of a villager was killed by an excavator operated by a PRC national.

Tensions between Chinese miners and local residents have accumulated steadily since the purchase of the mine by Fujian-based Zijin Mining Group (SEHK:2899) in August 2011.

Global Times cites an anonymous source from the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Kyrgyzstan as saying that Chinese firms are experiencing difficulty in Kyrgyzstan due to poor regulation and public hostility, and that future profits are far from guaranteed.

According to the source local residents feel they are not receiving their share of benefits from the foreign ownership and operation of Kyrgyz mines.

Zijin Mining, one of China's leading gold and copper miners, purchased the mine from Altynken Limited liability Company in 2011 for a consideration of USD$660 million. Zijin one of over 50 Chinese mining companies that have made forays into the Kyrgyz resources sector since 2009.

Violence rocks Chinese mine in Kyrgyzstan

Global Times

26 October 2012

Chinese businesses in Kyrgyzstan are hoping the outwardly harmonious international relations between the governments of the two countries can start to focus on the tense reality on the ground following a violent confrontation between local villagers and Chinese workers at a gold mine in the Central Asian nation.

Around 450 villagers living near Taldy-Bulak Levoberejny gold mine threatened Monday to destroy the offices of the Chinese company exploiting the resource, reported the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

The protest was triggered by an accident in which a villager's horse was killed by an excavator driven by a Chinese worker, but resentment appears to have been building ever since Zijin Mining Group from Fujian Province bought the mine in August 2011.

"It is very hard for Chinese firms to do business in Kyrgyzstan, because regulations are a mess and other pressures from the public," the head of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Kyrgyzstan, who only gave his surname Li, told the Global Times.

Li also suggested that Chinese mining companies should reconsider doing business in Kyrgyzstan.

"The current conditions cannot guarantee there will be a steady revenue stream," Li said.

The mine employs about 300 Chinese workers and some 260 local workers.

Li said many people in the area feel they are not getting a fair share of the benefits from mining and they are frustrated with the foreign firms.

In 2011, Altynken Limited Liability Company sold the mine to Zijin for $660 million.

More than 50 Chinese mining companies have set up operations in Kyrgyzstan since 2009, according to statistics from the Chinese embassy in Kyrgyzstan.

The embassy said the protests at Taldy-Bulak Levoberejny have ended and the company has sent representatives to the area to negotiate with the locals.

Operations at the mine have not yet resumed and the 300 Chinese workers have been moved to another village.

RIA Novosti reported the protests sent two locals to hospital and eight were arrested.

The embassy also said the dispute is a result of a number of complicated issues in Kyrgyzstan and were not targeting Chinese firms alone.



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