Kumtor, here is a name which rhymes, for many, with environmental threat, corruption, bribes, imprisonment and even torture.
Kumtor is a gold mine which rises to more than 4000 meters above sea level. It is located in Kyrgyzstan. It is the largest open pit mine in Central Asia, nestled in a delicate ecosystem upstream of a large network of rivers. It is owned by a Canadian company called Centerra Gold. The operation of this mine is at the center of much criticism and controversy. Among the most important are the risks it poses to the environment and the surrounding populations. Already in 1998, the mine suffered a major environmental accident when a truck loaded with cyanide overturned.
Today, many voices are raised accusing Canadian society of causing irreparable damage to the glacier. Indeed, Kumtor is the only mine in the world to excavate active glaciers; the reason why the exploitation of this mine is particularly perilous and potentially dramatic, in particular for the drinking water of Kyrgyzstan. According to Dinara Kutmanova, chairman of the State Committee for Ecology and Climate of Kyrgyzstan, the ice is melting due to the dumping of waste. She adds that: “The biggest threat is that the tailings are located 5 kilometers from Lake Petrov which originates in the glacier. If there is a rupture of the waters of the lake, the water will sweep the tailings dam and the accumulated toxic substances will be washed away in the rivers. " The government of the country located in Bichtek has therefore recently decided to take over the direct administration of the site, which is not to the taste of Canadian mining.
Representatives of Centerra Gold obviously deny these accusations, call scientists to witness and base the melting of glaciers on global warming. "Scientists stress in their reports that the main impact on the melting of glaciers - not only in Kumtor but throughout the world, including in Central Asia - is global warming, tempers Olga Medoeva, responsible for environmental protection. at the Kumtor mine. We are monitoring the average temperature in Kumtor, and we are seeing an increase. "
But the turmoil around Kumtor does not end there. The history of this mine has always been peppered with scandals; between crooked politicians, repression and arbitrary arrests, all shrouded in the greatest opacity.
In addition to employing nearly 2,500 people, the mine generates great wealth and represents an essential source of income for the Kyrgyz government, to the point of reaching 10% of GDP. The financial stakes around the mine are of such magnitude that it is not good to oppose them. All those who tried it ended up imprisoned and for some, tortured; like the politician, Mr. Sadyr Zhaparov, in 2017.
But these maneuvers do not discourage opponents and Kyrgyz citizens continue to express their dissatisfaction with the mine and its Canadian owners. They demand respect for human rights. They appeal for help from the Canadian government and above all, they are worried about their environment, already weakened by climate change.
In the end, Kyrgyz citizens remain trapped in the midst of political, economic and environmental issues and the recent tensions between their government and the Centerra Gold company will not help matters. The solution could come from Canada. On condition that the Canadian government agrees to pay attention to them.
Population: 6.5 million inhabitants
Area: 199,900 km²
Common borders: Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and the People's Republic of China to the east.