Kazakhstan: Authorities Bust Illicit Gold Mining Operation
A band of crooks in Kazakhstan seems to think that a mine is a terrible thing to waste - but authorities see things differently.
Officials in Kazakhstan have announced they charged “several” people involved in a case of illegal gold mining in the western village of Bestyube in Akmol Province, Russia’s Lenta.ru, is reporting. Another suspect, who appears to have been a co-organizer of the illegal operation, remains on the lam and faces an Interpol warrant. The illegal mining operation is believed to have started in 2012, Lenta.ru reported.
In the course of the investigation, police discovered “at least seven” units of drilling and sifting equipment at several addresses, as well as more than six kilos of ore containing gold materials worth about $265,000, according to Lenta.ru. A separate report distributed by the newskaz.ru website stated that several units of processing equipment were discovered at seven addresses. Neither outlet named the suspects. The ore came from mines belonging to the Kazakh nationalized mining agency, Kazakhaltyn.
Several news outlets also reported a sinister-sounding development: one of the suspects is said to be one of the leaders of Bestobe Jaamat, a Salafi Islamist group. While not illegal in Kazakhstan, the movement, which advocates adherence to a pure form of Islam, is considered radical and “non-traditional.” The newskaz.ru report throws in a mention of unregistered weapons being discovered alongside the ore.
According to Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Industry and New Technologies (MINT), the country has 293 deposits, cumulatively holding the world’s ninth-largest reserves of gold. Meanwhile illegal gold mining and production is certainly not limited to any one religious group. Earlier this month, police shut down an illegal gold processing operation in the eastern city of Zaryanovsk, seizing six tons of ore along with bulldozers, tractors and other machinery.
Last fall, the Russian online newspaper Rosbalt reported a gold-digging operation gone awry, as two men were buried alive in an shaft in the village of Kurchum in eastern Kazakhstan.