Kyrgyzstan’s largest investor, mining company Centerra Gold, received a reprieve when a key operating permit was recently renewed. But more drama likely lies ahead.
Lurking in the background during the ceaseless wrangling between the government and the Canada-based company is the nuclear prospect of Kyrgyzstan nationalizing its Kumtor gold field. Kyrgyzstan’s ultimate ambition is to obtain more revenue from the field for state coffers. The mine has generated up to 12 percent of the country’s GDP in recent years.
In June, Kyrgyzstan’s state environmental regulator authorized a continuation of work at Kumtor, despite Centerra facing $100 million in fines handed down in May for alleged ecological violations. That should ensure uninterrupted operations at the high-altitude, open-pit mine through the end of the year.
While that is happening, however, the miner will have to fend off numerous other legal assaults. President Almazbek Atambayev last month ordered the state prosecutor to investigate the legality of two deals drawn up for the mine in 2003-2004 and 2009 respectively.
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