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Kyrgyzstan: Gold To Be Refined Locally

Bishkek, 10 March 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Kyrgyz Prime Minister Apas Joumagulov today approved an agreement in which all gold currently being mined in Kyrgyzstan will be refined locally.

Our correspondent says the agreement calls for the Kara-Balta refining complex southwest of Bishkek to process all gold being mined by the Kumtor Operating Company (KOC).

The arrangement to refine gold at the Kara-Balta plant was originally part of a joint venture signed in 1993 between Cameco Corporation of Canada and the state enterprise Kyrgyzaltyn, which later became known as Kumtor Operating Company.

But last December, Kumtor claimed the Kara-Balta plant was not capable of refining the gold properly and it started looking for alternative sites abroad to refine the gold. The plans sparked public protests in Kyrgyzstan during December and January.

Under today's agreement, all the gold from the Kumtor site will be refined at the Kara-Balta plant. Cameco estimates the site contains 514 tons of gold.