The Kumtor mine in Kyrgyzstan. Photo credit: Radio Free Europe.
News stories are emerging today about the controversial Kumtor open-pit gold mine operated by Toronto-based Centerra Gold in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan.
The Associated Press reports, “Hundreds of stone-throwing protesters besieged a Canadian gold mine in Kyrgyzstan on Friday, clashing violently with riot police and prompting the president to declare a state of emergency. Over 50 people were wounded and 80 detained in the clashes, authorities said. …The demonstrations began earlier this week when protesters blocked the road leading to the mine in the northern Tian Shan mountains. On Thursday night, several hundred demonstrators, some on horseback, besieged a power transformer unit in the village of Tamga and cut off electricity to the mine for several hours.”
While the AP article fails to report on the water-related issues, Deutsche Welle notes, “The mine is located near Kyrgyzstan’s scenic Lake Issyk Kul…” And Radio Free Europe further explains, “(The) gold mine had only been in operation for months (in 1998) when one of its supply trucks crashed through a bridge, dumping more than a ton of toxic sodium cyanide into the Barskaun River. More than 2,500 people were poisoned. …(In the recent protest, one person said), ‘Our women are giving birth prematurely. Our sheep and cows are suffering. Dear leaders, we’re asking very kindly. We don’t need gold. We don’t need silver. We need clean water, healthy and good lives.’ …Kumtor has long raised concerns about the safety of downstream water supplies. The mine sits atop glaciers whose springtime meltwater feeds fresh water into the Naryn River, which flows toward Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. …(The mine’s tailings) are located below a mountaintop body of water, Lake Petrov, which in recent years has swelled in size as a result of increased glacial melt.”