Opponents to Centerra’s Kumtor gold mine in Kyrgyzstan take governor hostage

Opponents to Centerra’s Kumtor gold mine in Kyrgyzstan take governor hostage

Centerra Gold’s Kumtor mine.

About 200 people protested Monday against a likely partnership between Kyrgyzstan and Canada's Centerra Gold (TSX:CG) to jointly own the country's flagship Kumtor mine.

According to Eurasianet.org, demonstrators took Issyk-Kul province’s governor, Emil Kaptagaev, hostage and kept him hidden in a car for at least seven hours, while rumours of him being drenched in gasoline and threatened with matches spread out in the country.

The rioters, reports Vestnik Kavkaza, were demanding the Central Asian nation's authorities to take a stake in the mine not inferior to 67%, but Eurasianet reports that the reasons behind the violent protest were not that clear, as some reports said they were requesting the mine’s nationalization.

Centerra reached a memorandum of understanding with Kyrgyzstan in September, which could pave the way for joint ownership of Kumtor, and lead to the resolution of a long-standing dispute.

The agreement would allow the state-controlled Kyrgyzaltyn JSC to exchange its 33% stake in Centerra for a 50% interest in a joint venture that would own Kumtor. The Canadian miner would remain the operator and manager of the mine, and would also receive $100 million, the firm said last month.

The Kyrgyz parliament was expected to hold debates on the subject this week, but with violence continuing Monday evening, the meeting could be postponed.

The Toronto-based firm is a significant employer and taxpayer in the country and a key contributor to the Kyrgyz economy, which is expected to grow strongly this year and in 2014, mainly thanks to growing gold output from Kumtor, the International Monetary Fund said last week.

Image courtesy of Kumtor