Gold Miner Scared Out of Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan has suffered another self-inflicted wound on its economy. Following a weekend attack on its gold exploration camp, a South African joint venture is suspending drilling after supporters received death threats, Reuters reported.
The attack on Talas Copper Gold’s site in northwestern Kyrgyzstan was the second there this year. Approximately ten horsemen “armed with sticks and petrol bombs” set fire to several buildings on October 8 and beat up the camp’s security chief, Reuters, which closely follows the mining sector in Central Asia, reported.
Gold is Kyrgyzstan’s chief export, after migrant laborers. One foreign-operated mine alone generates at least 7 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP. But political uncertainty since the violence that ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April 2010 has frightened investors. Attacks on prospective mining camps around the country – including a Chinese-operated site in southeastern Naryn Province in August – suggest Bishkek does not have control over security. Stalled regulatory overhauls and parliamentarians threatening license annulments have also kept the mining sector from developing.
Whoever sent the men on horseback, the moral of the story for foreign investors is clear: Unless you can pay off the right people for protection (and good luck getting them all to agree), your money is better spent elsewhere.
Woe be to Kyrgyzstan, which so desperately needs the investment.
David Trilling is Eurasianet’s managing editor.