Clashes in Kyrgyzstan over Canadian-run gold mine | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 31.05.2013
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Clashes in Kyrgyzstan over Canadian-run gold mine

Unrest near a Canadian-run gold mine in Kyrgyzstan's northern mountains has prompted a clampdown. Authorities say 92 people were arrested and 55 injured in clashes with police. Locals want the mine nationalized.

Protesters, one of them holding a Kyrgyz national flag, run during a protest in Barskoon, Kyrgyzstan, Friday, May 31, 2013. Hundreds of protesters stormed the office of the Kumtor gold mine run by a Canadian-based company, demanding its nationalization and more social benefits. (AP Photo/Abylay Saralayev)

Kumtor Goldmine Kirgisistan Protest

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev reacted on Friday to protestors' demands that the Canadian-run Kumtor gold mine be nationalized by declaring a state of emergency and a curfew in the Dzhety Oguz district near the mine.

On Thursday night, protestors stormed a substation and cut power to the open-cast pit, demanding that the government cancel a 2009 deal with the mine's operator, Centerra Gold.

Local media said 3,000 local villagers then clashed on Friday with police while demanding the release of those arrested. A bus transporting security forces was set on fire.

The mine is located at 4,000 meters altitude near Kyrgyzstan's scenic Lake Issyk Kul and contributes 12 percent to Kyrgyzstan's gross domestic product.

'Full punishment' threatened

President Atambayev was reported from the capital Bishkek as saying organizers of the protests would be "punished in full accordance with the law."

"We will not give them the chance to shake and destroy the country," he said.

Ermek Dzhunushbayev, a leader of the demonstrators, said the mine either "works for the good of the Kyrgyz people or does not work at all."

Villagers reportedly want Centerra to build roads and a kindergarten, lay a water pipeline and buy equipment for local hospitals.

Shutdown at mine

Centerra Gold said it reacted to Thursday's substation cut by initiating an orderly shutdown of the mine's milling facility and switched over to back-up generators.

The Kyrgyz parliament has set June 1 as the deadline for President Atambayev's government to renegotiate the 2009 deal with Centerra or drop it.

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Zhantoro Satybaldiyev said the government needed more time for talks with Centerra. One option was to establish a joint venture, he said.

The former Soviet republic ranks as central Asia's most volatile republic. Two regimes were overthrown in 2005 and 2010. The-then president Kurmanbek Bakiyev fled to Belarus facing allegations over the murder of a top official in 2009.

Inter-ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan in 2010 also claimed hundreds of lives.

ipj/mz (AFP, Reuters)

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