Kyrgyzstan: emergency over mining protests

Kyrgyzstan's President Almazbek Atambayev declared a state of emergency in Dzhety Ohuz district of the Issyk Kul region May 31, after hundreds of protesters at the town of Barskoon stormed the facilities of the Kumtor  gold mine, run by the Canadian-based Centerra Gold. Hundreds of villagers, some on horseback, blocked the road to the mine earlier in the week, to demand its nationalization, and more local social benefits. Villagers later seized a power substation and cut electricity to the mine. When security forces moved to clear the road, clashes erupted, with police using tear-gas and firearms; several protesters were injured and one reportedly killed. Some 80 have been arrested, and a curfew imposed across the district.

President Atambayev said the protest "threatens the republic's national security and has significantly damaged the country's economy,” claiming losses to the state's revenues could be up to $125 million. "All the organizers of the unrest will be strictly punished in line with the law," he warned. Vice premier Shamil Atahanov is currently holding talks with the protesters. The mine has previously been accused by Kyrgyzstan's government of environmental damage and tax evasion, but denies the accusations, saying it has paid $1.2 billion in taxes since it opened in 1994 and directly invests in development projects for local communities. (AP, NYT, RIA-Novosti, BBC News, May 31)