Centerra Gold Inc.’s political crisis in Kyrgyzstan is escalating, prompting the gold miner’s former chief executive to raise concerns about the situation.
Len Homeniuk, who left Centerra in 2008, is worried the Toronto-based firm is not doing enough to protect the well-being of employees who are caught in the middle of the company’s dispute with the government. He said there is a “real animosity” brewing between the two sides.
Homeniuk himself became a victim of this dispute last year, as he was detained in Bulgaria for nearly three months after Kyrgyzstan issued an Interpol “Red Notice” calling for his arrest and extradition. He said he did nothing wrong. “I’m concerned employees from Centerra, many of whom I know, aren’t getting any type of protection,” the 69-year-old said in an interview.
Back in 2009, Centerra and the Kyrgyz government signed an agreement that was supposed to permanently end a long-running feud over Centerra’s Kumtor gold mine. It resolved tax issues around the mine and made the government Centerra’s largest shareholder. Kyrgyzstan currently owns 32 per cent of the company.
But before long, Kyrgyzstan was unhappy with the deal and wanted to scrap it. The government has spent the last few years pressuring Centerra, accusing the company of massive environmental destruction and other crimes. Centerra rejected all the allegations, and negotiations between the two sides stalled in December.
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