Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kyrgyz counterpart, Sadyr Japarov, opened operations at Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest gold deposit, pledging it would fuel investment in the economy and pad the state budget.
The two leaders launched the Jerooy gold refining plant, a mine operated by Russia's Alliance Group, on March 17 via a video-link ceremony.
Putin said the project would see "record volumes" of investment totaling $600 million over its lifetime and provide Kyrgyzstan’s budget with about $70 million annually from the project.
According to estimates, the mine holds nearly 90 tons of gold and 25 tons of silver, with annual gold output eventually reaching 5.5 tons.
The plant at Jerooy was scheduled to begin operations late last year, but was attacked in postelection unrest that led to Japarov emerging as leader after the government was toppled.
On his way to the mine in the province of Talas, Japarov met with locals who have protested against the Jerooy project over environmental concerns and demands their communities benefit from the deposit.
At the ceremony, Japarov called for stability and highlighted the project's importance to the state budget.
"We have great goals and common intentions. They are a bright future for our country and the well-being of our people," said Japarov.
Gold and other natural resources are a lynchpin of the Central Asian nation’s weak economy, which sends hundreds of thousands of migrant workers to Russia each year.
But mining projects, including the country’s largest gold deposit at Kumtor, have attracted protests and been a source of political grappling for resources in recent years.