Kyrgyzstan declares state of emergency over Kumtor gold mine riots
BISHKEK, May 31 (RIA Novosti, Yulia Orlova) - Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev has signed a decree declaring a state of emergency for the Issyk-Kul region, where rioters have barricaded the Centerra Gold Mine.
Shamil Atakhanov, the Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister responsible for the military and security agencies, has arrived at the site of the riots over the Kumtor Gold Mine to try and negotiate with the protesters.
On Tuesday, several hundred people in the Issyk-Kul Region got together at the Kumtor mine demanding the revocation of the government's agreement with Centerra Gold, the Canadian investor developing the mine, more social benefits for the local population and an overhaul of the local hospital building.
The protesters put up tents blocking the road and preventing supplies and personnel from moving to and from the mine. They later entered the Tamga power substation with firebombs and cut off power to the mine and the gold extraction plant.
On Friday morning, the law enforcement authorities finally succeeded in freeing the substation and arresting the organizers of the rally. The arrests were followed by clashes between the protesters and police across the region. The police used riot-control gear and weapons. Around 30 people were injured.
According to the Kyrgyz media reports, the protesters have seized a local weather station and are storming the Volna resort hotel on the southern bank of the Lake Issyk-Kul.
Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev warned on Friday that "all the organizers of the rally will be punished to the fullest extent of the law."
The Kumtor mine is the largest in Central Asia and produced more than 8.4 million ounces of gold between 1997 and the end of 2011, according to Centerra's website.
Under the 2009 agreement, the Kyrgyz government acquired one-third of Centerra. Centerra's subsidiary, Kumtor Operating Company, is the largest revenue earner for the Kyrgyz budget.
In 2011, it accounted for 12 percent of Kyrgyzstan's GDP and over half its industrial output, according to government statistics; last year, those figures dropped to 6.6 percent and 37.9 percent, respectively, due to damaging work stoppages at the mine, which dragged down the entire economy.
Earlier this spring, the Kyrgyz authorities pointed to the multiple environmental abuses committed by the Canadian investors while developing the mine, and demanded a change of the investment agreement to give the country's government a stronger position with regard to further production.