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Kumtor gold mine, Krygyzstan


Kumtor gold mine in Krygyzstan has been a centre of conflict on and off since its operations began 20 years ago. The mine is situated in a remote area with very few people living in its vicinity at its high altitude (over 4000 metress), in the Tian Shan mountain range, near the border with China and has been operated by Centerra Gold (Canadian company) since 1997. However, there are communities living downstream in the valleys below that depend on the glacial meltwater for their rivers and sustenance.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Kumtor gold mine, Krygyzstan
Country:Kyrgyz Republic
State or province:Issyk Kul province
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Mineral processing
Specific commodities:Gold
Project Details and Actors
Project details

In 2014 the company expects production of 600 000 oz of gold at cost between USD 833 and 909.

Project area:5,000
Level of Investment for the conflictive project1,200,000,000 (since 2009)
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:1995
Company names or state enterprises:Centerra Gold from Canada - Canada-based company owning majority share in Kumtor mine
Relevant government actors:Parliament, President of Krygyzstan
International and Finance InstitutionsUnited States Agency for International Development (USAID) (USAID) from United States of America
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Karek, Tree of Life, Transparency International, Bankwatch, MiningWatch Canada
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Other Environmental impacts, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Potential: Mine tailing spills, Waste overflow, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Other Environmental impactsImpact on glaciers
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsCyanide spill
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Militarization and increased police presence
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
New legislation
Under negotiation
Violent targeting of activists
Proposal and development of alternatives:Political opposition asks for nationalization
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:One political party asks for nationalization, but not for stopping the mine. Despite Centerra's Kumtor open pit mine having had several setbacks since the project started in 1994, including a cyanide spill, threats of nationalisation, riots and, more recently, a $300-million ecological damages lawsuit, the project continues in operation.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Kronenberg, J., 2013, Linking ecological economics and political ecology to study mining, glaciers and global warming, Environmental policy and governance, 23, 75-90
[click to view]

One of several good reports by Bankwatch
[click to view]

Article on a proposed glacier law
[click to view]

The Economist 2013, article on Kumtor
[click to view]

Several reports on protests, demands for nationalization in BBC news, also pictures, 2012-13
[click to view]

Al Jazeera
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Bankwatch video
[click to view]

Flowers of Freedom, documentary film. Seven year after the cyanide spill – in which the Kyrgyz government does nothing – a handful of courageous women begin to fight for the rights of the victims. Erkingül and her fellow campaigners found a small environmental organisation, block the road leading to the mine and eventually manage to secure 3.7 million US dollars in compensation from the Kyrgyz -Canadian gold mine.
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:J. Bloomer and J Martinez-Alier
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1359
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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