This Canadian won millions in a legal fight with Kazakhstan. Was it worth it? – by Nick Taylor-Vaisey (MACLEAN’S Magazine – January 14, 2020)

A Canadian mining exec’s decades-long tussle with Kazakhstan is finally over—he hopes. But even though he won, Paul Carroll doesn’t see much to celebrate.

The town of Stepnogorsk, a remote speck of civilization in the northern steppe of Kazakhstan, is straight out of a Cold War thriller. For decades, it was a secret—nowhere to be found on a map. It was a company town, and its business was, in part, producing weaponized anthrax.

After the Soviet Union dissolved, Stepnogorsk moved away from biological warfare, turning to exploiting vast uranium deposits in the region. But its residents soon found themselves at the centre of a dispute between their national government and a Canadian company that had set up shop there.

Paul Carroll went to Kazakhstan prospecting for gold. Twenty-five years later, the 78-year-old Toronto-based mining executive finally reached the end of a seemingly endless legal battle with that country’s government. The fight took him to courtrooms in Washington and tribunals in Stockholm and London.
The Kazakhs always seemed to gain the upper hand—that is, until Carroll’s legal team convinced international arbitrators that an obscure bilateral treaty proved they were right all along. On Oct. 29, he was awarded nearly $53 million for his trouble.

It sounds like a princely sum. But Carroll’s experience will go down as one of the great cautionary tales emerging from the ‘Wild East’ era of post-Soviet development. At first, he had no interest in Kazakh uranium. Carroll’s initial visit to post-Soviet Kazakhstan was all about gold.

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