Kyrgyzstan abandons mining auction after protest

BISHKEK, Aug 28 (Reuters) – Kyrgyzstan abandoned its first attempt to sell gold mining concessions after demonstrators stormed a live televised auction on Tuesday, disrupting attempts by the former Soviet republic to attract foreign investors to its untapped mineral riches.

Around 50 protesters, many wearing traditional Kyrgyz felt hats, burst into a television studio shouting nationalist slogans shortly before the scheduled live broadcast of the first auction under new mining laws adopted in April.

A Reuters correspondent in the studio saw officials flee the building as scuffles broke out between police and protesters, some of whom shouted: “We won’t let you sell our motherland!”

Kyrgyzstan’s new government revised its mining laws in an attempt to stamp out corruption and attract investors to bolster a fragile economy that relies heavily on output from a single gold mine, owned by Toronto-listed Centerra Gold.

The amendments require all small concessions to be auctioned publicly to the highest bidder, a move designed to end the clandestine exchange of licences for a handful of dollars with the sole purpose of re-sale.

Uchkunbek Tashbayev, director of the State Agency of Geology and Mineral Resources, said he believed the protest had been orchestrated by opponents of these reforms. He told Reuters that the auction would be rescheduled.

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