Kyrgyz prime minister suspends activities at Kyzul-Ompol uranium mine


BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz Prime Minister Muhammedkaly Abylgaziyev has ordered a moratorium on exploratory work at the Kyzul-Ompol uranium mine in Issyk-Kul Province, reported Monday (April 22), quoting the government press office.

"All decisions concerning the uranium deposit must be made only after taking into account the conclusions of this commission," said Abylgaziyev Monday, referring to an inter-agency working group formed last December to investigate Kyzul-Ompol. "If it's established that activity at this uranium deposit can harm public health and the environment, we must refuse to develop the deposit. If it turns out that such risks don't exist and that the technological process will be completely safe, then we must take the alternate decision."

The move came in response to mounting public protest of the plans to mine Kyzul-Ompol. Issyk-Kul Province also contains Lake Issyk-Kul, the country's leading tourist attraction. More than 15,000 individuals signed an online petition urging the government to halt development of the uranium deposit, reported Monday. Petition organisers are still collecting signatures.

Protests began last December. Geological exploration of the site began in 2010.

UrAsia in Kyrgyzstan, a subsidiary of the Canadian firm Azarga Uranium, has a licence to explore the site until December 31, 2020. Another player in the planned uranium mining is Russian: in March, Kara-Balta Mining Plant (KBMP) (Kyrgyzstan) signed an agreement with the Central Asian Uranium Co. LLC (Russia) to modernise KBMP and to process any uranium mined from Kyzul-Ompol.

Central Asians have been seeking international assistance to remedy the pollution caused by the Soviet Union's abandonment of and failure to clean up uranium mines and tailings dumps in Central Asia.

Some Tajik radioactive waste dumps contain enough materials for militants to scavenge and build into "dirty bombs", according to scientists and environmentalists.

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