15 Feb 2024 16:15

Underground gold mining starts at Kyrgyzstan's Kumtor field

BISHKEK. Feb 15 (Interfax) - Underground gold mining has begun at the Kumtor field, the Kyrgyz government's press service said on Thursday.

"Kyrgyz First Deputy Prime Minister Adylbek Kasymaliyev has signaled the start of underground gold mining at the Kumtor field," the press service said.

The future output is tentatively estimated at 115 tonnes.

Underground mining will increase gold production and reduce the negative impact on the environment, including glaciers, Kasymaliyev said.

"We hope to successfully implement the project, considering its environmental importance and economic efficiency," he said.

For now, Kumtor gold is mined in an open pit.

Kumtor is a major gold deposit in Central Asia. It is located over 4,000 kilometers above sea level in the Issyk-Kul region in northern Kyrgyzstan, 60 kilometers from the Chinese border.

Kumtor used to be a key foreign investment project in Kyrgyzstan. Canadian Centerra Gold Inc. owned the mine and operated it via the subsidiary Kumtor Gold Company under an agreement signed with the Kyrgyz government in 2009.

Kyrgyzstan took control of the mine in May 2021, citing environmental concerns and tax claims as the reason. Centerra initiated an international arbitration procedure to challenge the actions of the Kyrgyz government, and Kumtor Gold Company filed for bankruptcy. Then an amicable agreement with the government was signed, Centerra dropped every claim against Kyrgyzstan and withdrew its application.

Now, the state is in control of the mine.

In February 2023, the Kyrgyz government stopped interim external management of JSC Kumtor Gold Company, where the Great Nomads Heritage national holding served as the interim external manager. It was decided to abolish the management company. The government press service said the state-run joint stock company Kyrgyzaltyn would manage Kumtor from now on.

Fifteen to 17 tonnes of gold were annually produced at the mine before 2021. The output reached 17.3 tonnes in 2022.