Home » Business and Economics, Kyrgyzstan, Photoblog

Kumtor truck convoys in Barskayn + unhappy new hydrology report

Written by on Tuesday, 31 January 2012
Business and Economics, Kyrgyzstan, Photoblog

The rather crappy photos above are of Kumtor tractor trailer convoys in the Issyk-Kul region of Kyrgyzstan. The close-up shows one convoy parked outside of Barksayn (Барскаун, a.k.a., Barskoon, Barkaun, etc.), the second shows a full convoy that had been blocked on the road in Barskayn for mechanical reasons (an engine overheated in the lead truck), and the third shows a convoy with a police escort in one of the hamlets that rest along the Lake’s South Shore, which is less populated than the more touristy North Shore. I remember the cops being rather dramatic: sirens wailing, driving way up ahead of the trucks, frantically waving at pedestrians to get out of the way. I was surprised by the frequency with which the convoys came and went. Since I’m not at all an expert on resource issues, I’ve no idea what’s contained in these trucks (if anything; they could have been empty).

I took these photos back in April 2011 but misplaced them in the wilderness of my hard drive. However, today’s report from Bankwatch.org concerning the mining industry in Kyrgyzstan (http://bankwatch.org/sites/default/files/Kumtor-MoranReport-31Jan2012.pdf) has prompted me to dig them up (pun intended). The report explores a lot of the difficulties that exist trying to get a technical and ecological audit on the mine and other related mining ventures. I recommend reading it.

Background: The Kumtor Gold Mine, owned by the Canadian company Centerra Gold, is an open-pit gold mining site in the Issyk-Kul Province about 80 kilometers/50 miles south of the Lake, near the border with China, and something like 4,000 meters/14,000 feetabove sea level(making it the second-highest gold mining operation in the world after the Yanacocha gold mine in Peru). The mine started operation in the second quarter of 1997 and produced more than 5.8 million ounces (180,000 kg) of gold through the end of 2006.

The mine has been linked to a major environmental incident in 1998, when a truck carrying 1,762 kg of sodium cyanide (a chemical used to dissolve gold from granulated ore, the use of which is highly controversial) fell into the Barskayn River on the way to Kumtor. Here is the river, as well as the general Barksayn area:

I found it more than a little tragi-ironic that the entrance into Barskayn is marked by a dilapidated Soviet-era monument of a dump truck:

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  • Ben says:

    Thanks for posting and evoking memories of a great trip!!


  • John says:

    Family of my wife is living in KG. This is terrible! But as usual in KG, a lot of people does not know about it there. I believe not many people do not know about it too in the rest of the world and who cares really?
    How can we make such more public I wonder? Of course this article is already very nice and I saw the movie of Mirjam Leuze.
    If it is a Kyrgyz company, but no, Canadians / Europeans who only think of the profits and think of it as a far away from their beds show.
    At least one time a week, I try to find something about KG but you astonish me every time of how much you can find about this subject.
    Keep up the good work and if I can do something please send me a message.


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