29 May 2024 13:20

Kyrgyzstan ready to lift ban on uranium production

BISHKEK. May 29 (Interfax) - The Parliament of Kyrgyzstan adopted a bill to lift the moratorium on the development of uranium deposits in the first reading at a session on Wednesday.

The document assumes that the law of the republic "On the prohibition of activities related to the geological study of subsoil for the purpose of searching, exploration and development of uranium and thorium deposits in the Kyrgyz Republic" dated December 14, 2019 is now invalid.

"The adoption of the draft law will be accompanied by monitoring by government agencies of modern technologies for the extraction of uranium and thorium, which will help minimize the negative impact of mining on the environment. If the availability of such technologies is established, government agencies will introduce requirements for their implementation by subsoil users," Natural Resources Minister Melis Turgunbaev said at the session.

Meanwhile, the minister said that the extraction of uranium and thorium is not the objective of the bill. The lifting of the ban will make it possible to extract minerals that are in high demand on the world market.

The current ban on uranium development interferes with the extraction of other rare metals, providing residents with jobs, and replenishing the budget, the initiators of the project said. Among the country's deposits, they highlighted the Kyzyl-Ompol fields.

The deputies proposed to clearly spell out the strict environmental norms and standards for subsoil users regarding the extraction of uranium and thorium in the document.

A moratorium on the mining of uranium and thorium was introduced after a scandal surrounding the Kyzyl-Ompol deposit near Lake Issyk-Kul. After it became known in spring 2019 that the UrAsia in Kyrgyzstan company had received a license and began geological exploration work, residents held protests demanding that the development of this group of deposits be stopped. As a result, parliament approved a ban on uranium mining in the country.

President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov raised the issue of uranium mining five years later at a meeting with residents of a number of settlements in the Issyk-Kul and Naryn regions in February 2024. The country would experience great economic benefits when implementing the project, he said.

"We can say that a second Kumtor has opened. There are about ten deposits there [at the Kyzyl-Ompol group of fields]. We will receive more than $2 billion in net profit from the deposit alone. Last year, Kumtor's net profit was over $300 million, while the company paid about 30 billion som in taxes [$335 million]. If this field begins operating, it will also benefit the people and the state," Japarov said in an interview with the Kabar state agency.

According to open data, the Kyzyl-Ompol deposit contains 14.7 million tonnes of ore, 95% of which is titanomagnetite, approximately 3% is phosphorus, about 2% is zirconium, 0.22% is thorium, and 0.17% is uranium.