Kyrgyzstan imposes state of emergency to protect Centerra mine – by Olga Dzyubenko (Reuters U.S. – May 31, 2013)

BISHKEK – (Reuters) – Kyrgyzstan’s government imposed a state of emergency on a northern district on Friday to protect Centerra Gold’s Kumtor mine from protesters.

Police on Friday cleared away demonstators who had been blocking the road to Kumtor for days and arrested 92 people, Prime Minister Zhantoro Satybaldiyev told a news conference.

A few hours later police used tear gas and stun grenades in clashes with villagers who tried to seize a substation and cut power supplies to the mine, a police spokesman said. Several protesters were hurt.

Hundreds of villagers had blocked the road to Kumtor, in Dzhety Oguz district, on Tuesday afternoon and threatened to move on the mine if the government did not tear up its agreement with the company.

President Almazbek Atambayev imposed the state of emergency and a curfew on Dzhety Ohuz district of the Issyk Kul region until June 10, his office said. “Those who broke the law must be brought to justice in line with the full severity of the law,” it quoted Atambayev as saying during a meeting with security officials.

Toronto-listed Centerra Gold’s Kumtor mine, hidden in the Tien Shan mountains, is Kyrgyzstan’s largest gold deposit and helps to keep the country’s shaky economy afloat.

The villagers had put forward a list of demands to Centerra Gold, varying from building roads and a kindergarten and laying water pipelines to giving them long-term loans, offering them jobs at Kumtor, and buying equipment for local hospitals.

The protesters moved on Thursday night to an electricity substation feeding the mine and forced its operators to cut off power. Centerra Gold said it had begun an orderly shutdown of the milling facility using back-up diesel-generated power.

The police action prevented the mine from shutting down.

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