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Kumtor Gold Mine is an open-pit gold mining site in Issyk Kul Province of Kyrgyzstan located about 350 km (220 mi) southeast of the capital Bishkek and 80 km (50 mi) south of Lake Issyk-Kul near the border with China.
Kumtor is 100% owned by the Canadian mining company, Centerra Gold, through its wholly owned subsidiary, Kumtor Gold Company. The mine started operation in Q2 1997 and produced more than 5.8 million ounces (180,000 kg) of gold through the end of 2006. However, in mid June 2012, the Kyrgyz Parliament issued a resolution to review Kumtor’s compliance with relevant operational, environmental, health and safety and community standards. Stopping short of voting to nationalise the Kumtor mine, lawmakers instead directed the government to revise the contract, which gives Kyrgyzstan a 33% stake in the company while Centerra retains full ownership of the mine and its output.
The mine was linked to a major environmental incident in 1998 when a truck carrying 1,762 kg of sodium cyanide (a chemical used to dissolve gold from granulated ore, the use of which is highly controversial) fell into the Barskaun River on the way to Kumtor. Several people died and hundreds of villagers fell ill. After long protests and political struggel a compensation of 3.7 million US dollars was paid. The operation of the mine continues to be the center of political and environmental controversialities.
There are also 2 underground portals, and plans for further development. The minesite employs a limited number of technical experts from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and all of the surrounding areas from Bishkek to Karakol. Two major glaciers affect the mining process.