Behind Kyrgyzstan Unrest: Gold in the Mountains

Protests threatened as government debates mine's future
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Apr 3, 2013 1:15 PM CDT

(Newser) – Kyrgyzstan has had two revolutions in eight years, and it's poised for a third amid anger over a gold mine at 12,000 feet. Nationalists say it's time for the Kumtor mine to return to local control after it was sold to a Canadian company in 2009; they warn of another revolution if their demands aren't heeded. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that a state commission has said the Canadian company, Centerra, has been running the mine on the cheap and has damaged the environment. The government must renegotiate or nix the 2009 deal by June 1, according to parliament.

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The country's prime minister says kicking Centerra out would threaten future foreign investment in Kyrgyzstan, which boasts just a twelfth of its neighbor Kazakhstan's wealth. "Our investment climate will directly depend on how successfully we resolve the Kumtor issue," says Zhantoro Satybaldiyev. The mine generated 12% of Kyrgyzstan's GDP in 2011; the country holds a 33% stake in Centerra. Last week, three legislators who called for an end to Canadian control of the mine were convicted in a reported coup attempt. Backers have warned of national protests if the lawmakers aren't released by next week. (Read more Kyrgyzstan stories.)

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