Protesters cut power, demand nationalisation of mine
Kyrgyzstan on Friday declared a state of emergency after bloody clashes between security forces and protesters over the arrest of dozens of demonstrators who cut off power to a Canadian-owned gold mine they want nationalised. Prosecutors said 92 people were arrested when security forces dispersed the protest over the Kumtor mine, retake control of an electrical substation and dismantle their tents.
But this in turn sparked a new protest on Friday as thousands began a march to call for the release of those detained, clashing with security forces who fired tear gas and rubber bullets.
At least 55 people, including security forces, were wounded, said the Health Ministry. The protestors marched again on the Tamga substation and switched off the power.
The protesters are demanding the nationalisation of the Kumtor mine which has been wholly owned by the Canadian mining group Centerra Gold since it started operations in 1997.
Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev on Friday declared a state of emergency in the Dzheti-Ogyzsky district of the northern Issyk Kul region where the mine and electrical substation are located.
The state of emergency will last until June 10 and a curfew will last from 9 pm to 6 am local time, the presidency said. Hundreds of people late on Thursday had stormed the local substation that supplies the high-altitude mine and cut off the electricity.
Centerra Gold said its production at the mine, which is one of resource-poor Kyrgyzstan’s biggest assets, has been temporarily halted as a result. “All the organisers of the meeting at Kumtor will be punished in full accordance with the law. I guarantee that as president of the country,” said Mr. Atambayev. “We will not give them the chance to shake and destroy the country.”
Prime Minister Zhantoro Satybaldiyev blamed the unrest on the “enemies of Kyrgyzstan” and said the government was prepared for “negative” developments of the situation in the region.
The government said more than a million dollars a day was being lost as a result of the mine’s closure and it was the kind of object whose operation should not stop for a minute.
Centerra Gold has already said it is suspending operations and warned the events could have a negative effect on its profits.
It had sent a letter to the Kyrgyz government explaining that the company had already paid $1.2 billion in local taxes and was doing its fair share to school regional children and make other social improvements.