MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Newmont profits from Uzbekistan while state murder, torture and impoverishment prevail

Published by MAC on 2006-03-04

Newmont profits from Uzbekistan while state murder, torture and impoverishment prevail

4th March 2006

The London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) has published another graphic account of daily life in part of the former USSR, following the collapse of state capitalism. The focus is on Uzbekistan - probably the most repressive of former Soviet-ruled states - and in particular a vast coal field which formerly powered a wide range of industries.

The conditions described are virtually indistinguishable from those prevailing in so-called "lesser developing" coal-rich regions- - such as Shanxi province in China, northeast India or Colombia - where young people scrabble to support their families, as health, social cohesion and employment opportunities deteriorate.

Amnesty International's latest report on Uzbekistan (January 26 2006) indicts the government for torture, arbitrary executions, and a refusal to allow any kind of independent investigation of the May 2005 massacre in the town of Andizhan, when hundreds of peaceful demonstrators were mown down and killed by police. The European Union has imposed an embargo on sales of military equipment to the country, and blocked diplomatic exchanges.

Nonetheless, the biggest foreign company investing in Uzbekistan continues to operate without apparently raising a finger against the continuing state of terror.

NEWMONT MINING concluded a direct joint venture with the Uzbek government in 1991 - the first overseas company to do so in any part of the FSU (Former Soviet Union).

The Zarafshan-Newmont Joint Venture uses cynaide heap-leaching to extract gold from the Muruntau mine tailings, an operation scheduled to continue until 2011, employing around 800 people and, according to Newmont, having provided $0.5 billion to the government's coffers since it came on-stream.

Newmont was forced by the US government, and others, to withdraw from Burma in the late 1990s, because of its involvement with the SLORC military junta.

Unfortunately, to date, little pressure has been put on the company to withdraw from Uzbekistan, despite its being the biggest single foreign investor in the regime [Nostromo Research, London]

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