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Russia to invest $600 mn in Kyrgyz gold project: Putin

·2-min read
Russian President Vladimir Putin participates via video link in a ceremony launching a gold processing facility in Kyrgyzstan, in Moscow on March 17, 2021

President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday oversaw the opening of a Moscow-backed gold refining plant in Kyrgyzstan, pledging the impoverished country's second largest mine would see $600 million in investments from Russia.

Russia, China and the West have competed for influence in Central Asia including in Kyrgyzstan whose economy relies on gold mining, among other industries.

Moscow has watched billions in investments from China pour into Central Asia in recent years, with Russian companies struggling to compete.

On Wednesday, watching the opening of the gold processing plant at the Jerooy mine in northwestern Kyrgyzstan via video link, Putin said the project would see "record volumes" of investment totalling $600 million by the end of its lifetime.

The plant at Jerooy, a mine operated by Russia's Alliance Group had been expected to go on line last year, but was attacked during unrest that saw a Kyrgyz administration toppled and populist Sadyr Japarov emerge as leader.

The group said the arson attack cost the company over $10 million in damages, delaying production at Jerooy, which holds nearly 90 tonnes of gold and 25 tonnes of silver.

Kyrgyz leader Japarov thanked Putin for his support of the project.

Gold is central to the threadbare economy of the majority Muslim country of 6.5 million people which sends hundreds of thousands of its citizens to work in Russia each year.

But mining projects, including a flagship Canadian mine and several Chinese projects, have been flashpoints of contention in recent years.

During his trip to the largely agrarian province of Talas on Wednesday, Japarov met with demonstrators who have protested against the Jerooy project over environmental concerns.

At the ceremony, he appealed for stability, stressing the project's importance to the state budget.

"We have great goals and common intentions. They are a bright future for our country and the well-being of our people," said Japarov, who was serving jail time for hostage-taking when he was freed during October's anti-government uprising.