The Kyrgyz Prime Minister Babanov has told Canadian miner Centerra Gold he wants to work with the company to resolve environmental issues at the core of a governmental dispute about continuing operations at Kumtor gold mine.
The Prime Minister recently visited the Kumtor complex for the first time and was accompanied by members of the State Commission recently established to review the mine’s operating licence.
He also used the visit to provide clarification regarding a governmental decree that cancelled a previous policy which granted Kumtor certain surface rights in relation to the project. The Prime Minister said the new position would have no impact on operations at Kumtor.
In 2009, Centerra, Kumtor Gold and the Kyrgyz Republic signed comprehensive agreements governing all aspects of the project, which were approved by all relevant Kyrgyz governmental authorities. All disputes in relation to these agreements are subject to international arbitration.
Earlier this month, the Kyrgyzstan government announced it will review its 33% stake in Centerra which is worth an estimated $1 billion. A special commission established to revise the Kyrgyz parliament’s share has been given a deadline of October 1 to prepare a new contract with the company.
The review was prompted by calls from some politicians who have accused the company of profiting excessively from Kyrgyzstan’s resources and causing irreparable environmental damage, with a series of toxic spills in past years, causing a damage bill of almost $4 billion.
Centerra’s president Ian Atkinson says the claims are unfounded, with the project operating under full compliance of international environmental, safety and health standards. He says the mine has generated $1.9 billion for Kyrgyzstan, including $620 million in taxes.
Centerra says it remains committed to continuing to work with the government to resolve any issues.