Activities of the Kumtor Gold Company, owned by Canadian mining form Centerra Gold, poses a danger to water supply in the basins of the Kumtor and Naryn Rivers in Kyrgyzstan, and could trigger an environmental catastrophe in the region, Kyrgyz authorities have warned.
Kyrgyzstan’s state commission said industrial effluents from waste dumps and quarry water are polluting the area, “posing a serious threat to surface water in the basin of the Kumtor and Naryn rivers,” and this could cause severe damage to water resources.
“About 20 to 30 percent of waste dumps have a potential for acid generation so the possibility of long-lasting acid pollution cannot be excluded,” said areport prepared by the State Inspectorate Office for Environmental and Technical Safety.
“There is gradual and long-lasting stockpiling of acid and sulfate pollutants in bottom deposits, which are moving downstream the Naryn River; in the future, environmental problems will aggravate due to the increasing volumes of rock dumps, and the melting and pollution of glaciers,” the report added. “When the mine is closed, the total weight of waste dumps is expected to reach 1.7 billion tons.”
An analysis of soil, water and bottom deposits carried out by Kyrgyz and foreign laboratories found that heavy metals are present at two to 6.5 times the maximum permissible concentration upstream and downstream from the main sources of anthropogenic pollution.
“Currently, the volume of water in Lake Petrov [in the upper reaches of the trans-boundary Naryn River] is increasing (by 1.8 million cubic meters every year) and the possibility of an outburst at its natural dam is increasing, which poses a threat to waste dumps. If measures are not taken to prevent mudflows in case of outburst of Lake Petrov, a regional environmental catastrophe will happen,” the state office warned.
According to the state commission, Kumtor Gold has not started using recycled water supply, as it is supposed to. Furthermore, the company “is continually taking water from Lake Petrov for industrial and domestic needs without relevant payment.”
Kumtor Gold Mineis an open-pit mine located about 350 kilometers southeast of Bishkek and 80 kilometers south of Lake Issyk-Kul, near the border with China.
Kyrgyzstan has a 33 percent stake in Centerra Gold.
The mining company did not agree with the government’s conclusions on the Kumtor site.