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Kyrgyz President Signs Law Allowing External Management Of Kumtor Gold Mine

The Kumtor gold mine, and it operator, has long been a contentious issue in Kyrgyzstan.
The Kumtor gold mine, and it operator, has long been a contentious issue in Kyrgyzstan.

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov has signed into law a bill that will allow the government to temporarily manage the Kumtor gold mine, a move the mine's Canadian operator says is a thinly veiled attempt to push it out.

The bill was signed into law on May 14, eight days after it was approved by the Central Asian state's parliament.

According to the law, if a company operating a concession agreement in Kyrgyzstan violates environmental regulations, damages or endangers the local environment or lives of people, or causes any other significant damage, the government has a right to take the company under its control for three months.

Kumtor Gold Company, Kyrgyzstan's biggest taxpayer, is the only company in the former Soviet republic that operates on a concession agreement.

Centerra Gold, Kumtor Gold Company's majority owner, has said that the goal of the move is to justify ongoing calls to nationalize the gold mine or force the Canadian company to leave.

Kyrgyzstan owns 26 percent of Kumtor Gold Company's shares.

Japarov has been known since 2012 to be a strong supporter of nationalizing the Kumtor mine, which is located in his native Issyk-Kul region in the country's northeast.

He has accused Centerra Gold of corruption and damaging the local environment.

Japarov led a mass protest at Kumtor in 2013, demanding its nationalization, that turned violent and led to the kidnapping of a local governor, Emil Kaptagaev.

In 2017, Japarov was found guilty of the kidnapping and sentenced to more than 10 years in prison. He maintains the charges against him were politically motivated.

In October 2020, Japarov was among several prominent politicians freed from prison by protesters during anti-government rallies that were sparked by disputed parliamentary elections.

The unrest led to the downfall of the government and the resignation of then-President Sooronbai Jeenbekov.

Japarov was then named acting president and prime minister. He later stepped down to be eligible for the presidential poll on January 10, which he won easily.

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