Listen to this BosNewsLife News report via Vatican Radio. Click here vatikyrgysztan
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
BARSKOON/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– The government of Kyrgyzstan
has imposed a state of emergency on a northern district to protect one of the world’s highest goldmines from protesters after clashes with police injured dozens of people.
Kyrgyzstan’s government confirmed that police on Friday cleared away as many as 2,000 demonstrators, some on horseback, who demanded the nationalization of the Canadian-owned Kumtor mine and more social benefits.
Villagers and workers also entered a power plant and cut electricity to the mine, which is operated by the Toronto-based Centerra Gold company. At least 92 protesters were detained, said Prime Minister Zhantoro Satybaldiyev.
Riot police also used stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse the stone-throwing protesters who had descended upon the Kumtor mine office near the eastern village of Barskoon, the Health Ministry said. Some 55 people, including 13 police, were wounded in clashes, witnesses said. A police bus was set on fire.
Following the fighting, President Almazbek Atambayev imposed the state of emergency and a curfew on the area saying “those who broke the law must be brought to justice.”
ANGER OVER AGREEMENT
The riots were prompted by anger over an agreement between the government and Centerra Gold’s Kumtor mine, hidden 4,000 meters high in the Tien Shan mountains.
Protesters said the mine with Kyrgyzstan’s largest gold deposit should be nationalized as the income generated by it did not impact the general population of this impoverished, remote, ex-Soviet central Asian state.
They also demanded new roads, a kindergarten, water pipelines, long-term loans, jobs at Kumtor, and equipment for local hospitals.
Yet the company points out it already contributes at least 12 percent to Kyrgyzstan’s economy while supporting social projects.
Its Vice President of Investors Relations, John Pearson, claimed Krygyzstan’s ownership of the mine increased in recent years.
MORE MINE SHARES
“We are operating currently under the new terms agreement which was signed in 2009. That resulted in the increase of the Kyrgyz republic’s ownership in Centerra to the 33 percent level,” he noted.
Parliament set a deadline of June 1 for the government to renegotiate – or repudiate – that deal.
A state commission said the Canadian firm paid too little to run the mine, and accused it of inflicting environmental damage leading to $457 million in fines.
Yet the government is weary that attempts to nationalize the mine will have another negative impact on foreign investments in this Muslim nation of 5.5 million people, which has seen two presidents toppled since 2005.
Instability is also of concern for the international community. Located on on China’s mountainous western border, it hosts a U.S. air base used to support military operations in nearby Afghanistan.
(BosNewsLife’s NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key general news developments from especially, but not limited to, (former) Communist countries and other autocratic states impacting the Church and/or other compassionate professionals).
Help BosNewsLife to be the voice of the voiceless. Click here for a subscription.