About gold

“Well it s clear that we`ve created internationally so many financial problems, in the United States, in Europe, in other countries, and as a result so much credit has been given, so much money has been printed, that many people would prefer, to have gold, or silver, or platinum, some tangible asset, that can preserve their wealth, because they know the wealth of their paper money is degrading. And so while we are sitting in this isolated part of Central Asia and it seems unconnected to much of the rest of the world this is obviously a central issue to whats going on economically and financially right now in Europe and North America” Dr. Robert Moran, Hydrogeologist, Autumn 2011

Permafrost zone close to the Chinese border: The Tienshan mountain range is the location of the seventh largest gold mine in the world. In the Kumtor mine, the precious metal is being exploited by 2500 workers in the middle of a glacier zone at 4000m above sea level. The majority shareholder is the Canadian mining company Centerra Gold with 77.3 %, who operate the mine through its subsidiary, the Kumtor Operating Company. At this point the Kyrgyz state holds 33,7 % of the shares. According to official data, the mining output had reached 264 tons of gold in 2011. It is assumed that there are further gold deposits below the glacier. In Kyrgyzstan - an extremely poor country after the breakdown of the Soviet Union - the Kumtor mine makes up to 10-13 % of the annual economic performance and provides 15 % of the tax yield and 50 % of the exports. 

The gold is being exploited in open-pit mining. Thousands of tons of rocks are being moved every day, then grounded and soaked with cyanide, in order to separate the gold dust from the rocks and soil. Annually, 3650 tons of cyanide are required; pure poison that is transported to the mine by trucks, traveling along the second largest mountain lake in the world on unpaved mountain passes. Extremely low concentrations can be fatal to aquatic organisms and many other animals. Long-term exposure of humans to low concentrations of cyanide in water can also produce negative health impacts.

The tailings impoundment that holds the waste residues from the gold production contains about 60 mil cubic litres. In summer, when the permafrost soils are thawing, the dam moves and cracks appear. The glacier lake Petrov is located above the gold mine. Due to the strong melting of the glaciers, the risk of the dam "exploding" and gushing into the gold mine and on into the tailing impoundment is increasing. This hazard is becoming even more likely due to the fact that the mine is located in a region subject to strong earthquakes. If that happens, a chemical disaster on a scale similar to that in the gold mine in Baia Mare, Romania, might be possible.

After the filming had finished, the political struggle for the mine intensified. Nationalists in the parliament demanded its nationalization. But the Canadians insist on an at least a 50 % share of the Kumtor mine. In autumn 2012 and May 2013, thousands of people demonstrated and claimed for nationalization. Demonstrators on horses attacked an electrical supply station and turned off the power supplying the mine. The demonstrations hit the government at a very inopportune time, as it is right in the process of new negotiations with the Canadian operators of the mine. Kyrgyzstan does not have gas or oil deposits at its disposal like it`s neighbouring countries, therefore the country's gold resources are the most important source of income for  the state. According to the economic minister Temir Sariyev, 602.000 ounces of gold, at the amount of 110 Mil. US-Dollar have been produced in 2013 at the Kumtor goldmine. The situation remains tense. For more information see also >>>.