The Kyrgyz economy is heavily reliant on gold mining, mainly on that which takes place at Kumtor.
Kyrgyzstan’s new president, the populist Sadyr Japarov, has banned foreign companies from future large mining projects for gold and other minerals in the country. Existing licences are unaffected by the decision. The move marks Japarov’s first major decision as president and bears a striking relation to his rise to power—Japarov was serving a prison sentence stemming from the October 2013 kidnapping of a provincial governor during protests over the Canadian-owned Kumtor flagship gold mine in Kyrgyzstan, but was last October busted out of jail by supporters amid the upheaval in the country sparked by demonstrations against a parliamentary election that opposition parties claimed was fixed. Centerra Gold, which owns and operates Kumtor, stands as the largest foreign investor in Kyrgyzstan.
Given the many instances of negative sentiment expressed against foreign investors in Kyrgyzstan, especially during the country’s latest troubles, Japarov’s targeting of the involvement of foreign investors in the mining of the country’s valuable natural resources might only be the beginning of a wave of investment populism. Under the new mining order, the development of “subsoil areas of national importance” can only be conducted by state-owned companies. Kyrgyzstan has been looking into options for developing its Zhetim iron ore deposit in recent months.