Thursday, May 31, 2012 -
Hundreds of locals continue to block a road near Barskoon village which is vital to Kumtor Operating Company (KOC), in which the Kyrgyz government has a one-third holding.
Protesters on the road number between 100 and 250, the Reuters news agency reported.
“The road is blocked,” Reuters quoted Kumtor spokesman Sergei Dedyukhin said. “Foreign employees coming down from the mine are not beign allowed to pass and are having to return to the mine.”
A large part of the protesters consists of a national youth movement.
The country’s flagship project is an open pit mining site in eastern Issyk Kul province around 220 miles from the capital Bishkek.
The operations are led by Canadian miner Centerra Gold.
Ongoing protests by villagers living near Kyrgyzstan’s biggest gold mining project are creating consternation among the country’s officials, local media outlets reported Thursday.
Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev this week criticized the actions that he said were an attempt to frighten away foreign companies from the cash-strapped country.
“It’s time to put in place those who are trying to scare investors,” Atambayev said during a talk to students and faculty of the local Issyk-Kul State University, the government press agency Kabar reported.
He did not name names.
Some people have accused Zhashtar Keneshi youth movement activists of being behind the troubles.
But the movement’s chairman Adil Nazarov denies the accusations.
He blamed the action on an ex-member of the organization he said was kicked out a while back for violating the movement’s rules.
“He is doing it with help of interested persons,” the Bishkek-based 24.kg news agency cited Nazarov as saying.
In his address to the university, Atambayev noted that Centerra Gold is supporting local communities – one of the demands of protesters – and has expressed willingness to offer further support.
Despite Kumtor’s readiness to create a carpool of 400 vehicles to help develop the city of Issyk-Kul, obstacles are still being raised by some people, said the president.
Atambayev told the audience that similar unfair actions have been undertaken by residents near Talas gold mine in northwestern Kyrgyzstan.
The city has been subsidized by Talas mine, he said, adding: “But some do not give Talas a chance to develop its deposit.”
Investors will only put their money in a country that is stable and calm, he said.
Kumtor is located in the Tien Shan gold belt, one of the world’s best endowed gold and silver bearing regions.