Kyrgyz villagers attack Russian-owned mining camp

Thu Nov 29, 2012 12:14pm EST
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* Police, contractor say geologists' camp attacked twice

* Villagers in Batken region complain of environmental damage

* Local opposition, anti-mining rhetoric deter investment

By Olga Dzyubenko

BISHKEK, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Villagers in southern Kyrgyzstan have attacked a camp of geologists working for a Russian gold-mining company, accusing them of damaging the environment.

Residents of a village in Batken region raided the camp, owned by small private miner Almazintex, on two separate occasions this month after calls to halt exploration at the site were ignored, a police spokesman and the camp operator said.

"Property was set ablaze. A criminal investigation is under way," local police spokesman Talaibek Susumbayev told Reuters on Thursday.

A new government in Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished former Soviet republic that hosts both Russian and U.S. military air bases, is seeking foreign investors to mine gold, coal and other minerals and bolster its fragile economy.

Mining is crucial to the economy of the Central Asian state, which has contracted this year largely to declining output at the Kumtor mine, owned by Canada's Centerra Gold. The mine alone contributed 12 percent of the gross domestic product last year.   Continued...