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Tengiz Boluruk about seizure of control of Kumtor: Kyrgyzstan had no option

The Kyrgyzstan government had no option but to seize control of the giant Kumtor gold mine from its Canadian owner because of environmental and safety issues, the Financial Times reports with reference to the external manager of Kumtor Gold Company JSC Tengiz Bolturuk.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Tengiz Bolturuk said the decision to appoint him as external manager was because of «systematic violations» of environmental law by Centerra Gold and its «predatory» attitudes toward natural resources. «I have seen it with my own eyes,» he commented.

In May, Bishkek seized control of Kumtor, the country’s most valuable asset producing 500,000 ounces of gold a year, after President Sadyr Japarov signed a new law allowing the government to take temporary control of mines that violate environmental regulations or endanger lives.

As the Financial Times reports, gold production is the largest source of revenue in Kyrgyzstan and Kumtor is the biggest single contributor to its gross domestic product.

Centerra, which relies on the mine for more than half of its annual revenue, has responded by launching international arbitration proceedings against the government.

In a statement, Centerra said Bolturuk’s claims were entirely meritless and the state agency responsible for the environment had approved its mining permits every year.

Edil Baisalov, Kyrgyzstan’s Deputy Prime Minister and former ambassador to the UK, said Bishkek was committed to resolving the dispute with Centerra. «To this end, we remain open to reaching an out-of-court settlement that satisfies all parties. However, we are also ready to pursue legal arbitration to its proper and just conclusion,» he said in a statement.