Two US companies, the Leucadia National Corporation and MK Gold, are set to develop Kyrgyzstan’s Jerui gold field in a joint venture with that country’s government. The lucrative field, whose proven gold reserves are 71 tons, is to be mined in open casting. Meanwhile Canada’s Cameco company is taking part in developing Kumtor, Kyrgyzstan’s largest gold field, whose reserves are reportedly estimated at 500 tons. Kyrgyzstan is also about to hold an international auction for large blocks of shares in leading industrial enterprises, including chemical and metallurgical ones. The State Property Fund has reported receiving nearly 100 applications from US firms, with Turkey trailing closely and Russia a distant third. (12)
Although the profitability of at least some of the industrial plants on offer must be questionable, the offer itself and certainly the profitable mining concessions reflect the government’s policy of opening the door to the West. They also place in context Kyrgyzstan’s recent decision to join (along with Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan) the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan customs union in the near future. That step aims primarily to secure access for Kyrgyzstan’s products to the Russian market, and may therefore become an advantage to Western joint ventures in Kyrgyzstan. But the country’s bids for Western investment clearly show where its hopes for independence-sustaining modernization lie.