Kyrgyzstan’s prime minister has ordered a halt to the country’s two-year effort to renegotiate operating terms at its flagship gold mine, reasoning that a joint venture is no longer in the country’s best interests. Despite lawmakers’ near-constant chest thumping and promises to nationalize the Kumtor mine, the announcement seemed to catch them off guard.
Foreign investment has plummeted as Kyrgyzstan and Toronto-based Centerra Gold have struggled to restructure ownership of Kumtor, which is responsible for generating up to 12 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP and about 40 percent of export earnings. Under the current operating contract, signed in 2009, Centerra wholly owns the mine; Kyrgyzstan, in turn, owns one-third of Centerra. Parliament voted in February 2013 to scrap that agreement, arguing it was signed by a corrupt former leader and is not in Kyrgyzstan’s best interests.
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David Trilling is EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor.