Protest against Centerra Gold in Kyrgyzstan turns violent

Demonstrators clashed with police and tried breaking into a building housing the parliament and government offices in Kyrgyzstan's capital Wednesday, as they demanded the nationalization of the Kumtor gold mine, owned by Canadian Centerra Gold (TSX:CG).

According to Associated Press, several hundred protesters rallied against Centerra’s operations, accused of being the source of a series of toxic spills in past years, including a cyanide spill into a river.

The mob asked prime minister and other top officials to quit.

Shares of  Centerra were down almost 2% on Wednesday mid-morning to $12.14.

The protest comes three months after the ex-Soviet country's parliament backed proposals to review Centerra's operating licence.

The 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, according to the company, it is the largest gold mine operated in Central Asia by a Western-based company.

The Canadian miner was granted the license for Kumtor under Kyrgyzstan deposed leader, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was accused of corruption.

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 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.