Only a week after Canadian Centerra Gold (TSX:CG) rejected as “exaggerated” and “without foundation” a $152 million environmental damages claim from the Kyrgyzstan government, the miner said it has filed an updated technical report for the mine in question, the world-class Kumtor.
The new document describes in detail Kumtor’s new life-of-mine plan (LOM), which extends the open-pit mining and milling operations to 2026.
Centerra, one-third owned by the Kyrgyzstan administration, has faced mounting problems this year in relation to Kumtor.
There have been persistent requests to nationalize the mine, the largest gold operation in Central Asia run by a western company. This threat is not over, even though the new Prime Minister, Zhantoro Satybaldiyev, ruled the possibility out in October.
The Canadian miner has also been questioned because it was granted the license for Kumtor under Kyrgyzstan deposed leader, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was accused of corruption.
To date the Toronto-based company is a significant employer and taxpayer in the Central Asian country and a key contributor to the Kyrgyz economy. In fact, the Kumtor open pit gold mine accounts for 60% of the nation's industrial output and in 2011 alone, it accounted for 12% of the country’s GDP.
To give an idea of just how important Kumtor is to the country, Centerra’s announcement May 15 of reduced 2012 gold production guidance (from 642,000 ounces to 390,000 ounces) led to this pronouncement from Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov: “Kyrgyzstan’s annual GDP growth will fall to 1.8% from the original target of 7.5%.”
As reported then by Reuters, “Hard hit by the slump in Kumtor’s output, Kyrgyzstan’s GDP shrank by 6.4% in January-May of this year compared with the same period of 2011, data released by the National Statistics Committee showed… Industrial output plunged by 31.2% in year-on-year terms in the same period.”
Since it started running in 1997, Kumtor has generated $1.9 billion for Kyrgyzstan and produced more than 8.4 million oz. of gold.
Kyrgyzstan, a land-locked country of five million people on China's western border, has become infamous in recent years because it hosts a U.S. airbase used to support military operations in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Image: Kumtor mine/ Centerra Gold.