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Bankruptcy Sought For U.S.-Uzbek Gold-Mining Venture

Gold extraction in the Pavlodar region of Kazakhstan (ITAR-TASS) August 16, 2006 -- Uzbekistan's state-controlled media today report that authorities have taken steps to declare a U.S.-Uzbek gold mining joint venture bankrupt.

The financial website says a Nawaiy regional court has initiated bankruptcy procedures against Zarafshan-Newmont upon a request filed by the country's main tax collection office.

The report quotes a statement by Uzbekistan's antimonopoly authority saying Zarafshan-Newmont will be placed in the hands of a court-appointed administrator.

Earlier this year, another Uzbek court ruled that Zarafshan-Newmont should pay $48 million in tax arrears and fines. Authorities subsequently froze the joint venture's assets, although employees and company representatives insisted operations were continuing.

Zarafshan-Newmont is jointly owned by Colorado-based Newmont Mining Corporation, one of the largest gold producers in the world, and several Uzbek entities. Newmont representatives have suggested the company will seek international arbitration in the dispute.

The joint venture operates one of the world's largest open-pit gold mines in the world in the Qizilqum desert, 400 kilometers west of Tashkent.

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