The gold-mining Kumtor enterprise, which someaccuse of having caused severe ecological damage on the shore of Issyk-Kullake (see the Monitor, June 9) holds a key place in Kyrgyzstan’s economy.The enterprise is a joint venture of the Canada-based Cameco, a world leaderin uranium and gold mining, and the state-owned Kyrgyzaltyn (Kyrgyz Gold).Located at 4,000 meters above the sea level, Kumtor was prospected under aconcession agreement signed in 1992, and produced the first gold in late1996. In 1997, the first full-production year, Kumtor reported an output offourteen tons (out of Kyrgyzstan’s total of seventeen tons in 1997). By farthe single largest earner of hard currency in Kyrgyzstan, Kumtor has enabledthe country to run a sustainable trade balance and to achieve a recordincrease in industrial output on the strength of new investment. It alsogenerates many jobs in local support industries and services.
With the resignation of Gerhard Glattes as Kumtor Operating Companypresident, the KOC’s initial leader Len Humeniuk of Canada is tipped toreturn to that post. Glattes resigned under pressure from some politicalactivists and local media which have provided their own accounts of theenvironmental damage. Cameco chairman Michel Bernard and most Kyrgyzgovernment officials cite expert opinions to the effect that the ecologicaldamage is small. Kumtor has received far more international publicity forthat accident than it has for its unique production performance. (IPS,Russian agencies, June 5 through 8; For background see the Monitor, February14 and December 19, 1996).–VS
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