Kyrgyz Prime Minister Joomart Otorbaev announced he is stepping down after just over a year in office, making this the fifth prime minister the country has seen since the 2010 revolution. Otorbaev didn’t give an immediate reason for his resignation but the move comes in the midst of an enormous debate over the operations of the Kumtor gold mine. The issue at stake are negotiations regarding ownership of the gold mine between the Krygyz government and Canadian mining conglomerate Centerra. The first deal, signed in 2003 gave the government just a 17% stake in the operations and profit, with Centerra controlling the rest, but subsequent renegotiations in 2009 gave the government a larger 33% share.
Opposition parties, locals, and unions have called for the nationalization of the mine, inducing Parliament to call for the talks which are pushing for 50-50 ownership. The last obstacle was Otorbaev himself, who has made it one of his priorities to reach a deal with Centerra. Talks completely broke down when news leaked that Otorbaev was negotiating for increased representation on Centerra’s Board of Directors rather than lobbying for total nationalization, probably sparking the breakdown in local support that has led to the resignation.
However, suspicious behavior exists on both sides. Centerra Gold, probably in reaction to the increased calls for nationalization, have sharply revised their estimations of total proven and probable reserves in Kumtor from 8.5 million ounces to 6.1 million ounces at the end of 2014.
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