How are peoples lives affect by Gold mining in Andash ?

Posted on April 13, 2007 in ICT, Public Participation.

Not all gold mining companies learn fast from local communities that ask for the right to decide on their own future.

Milieukontakt expert on Local Public Participation Galina Cheban (based in Bishkek) gave an interview and described the current situation on the Andash Gold Mining Case.

State Agency for Environment and Forestry Protection under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic has provided the ecology expertise report – Decision of the public environmental commission of experts on the feasibility study report entitled “Environmental impact assessment of “Andash” gold-copper deposit mining”.
How does Gold mining in Andash affects peoples lives?

Not all gold mining companies learn fast from local communities that ask for the right to decide on their own future.

Interview with Galina Cheban, Local Public Participation expert from Milieukontakt International, Bishkek, April 12, 2007.

How got Milieukontakt started in Talas Oblast?

In April 2006 a group of local inhabitants of the Talas District contacted Milieukontakt for support.

What was their greatest concern?

They were worried about possible negative impacts on their livelihoods when the mining project that is planned would start. The population only heard rumors, which were not based on any official information. They feared that their pasture grounds would be affected and that the company could take away their property. They just wanted to get clarity about the rumors.

Furthermore, they were concerned about possible effects to environment of the Gold mining. Kyrgyzstan has a history in Gold mining with the Canadian owned Kumtor Goldmine a the Issyk Kul lake. An accident with cyanide in 1998 had a lot of negative effects on environment and the Kyrgyz learned that gold mining companies do not have environment in their list of priorities.

In Andash we provided the community with training on how to exercise their rights on participation. Also we explained the contents of the Aarhus convention, which states that civilians have the right to know what is happening in their direct environment and they should be involved in decision making processes. Both theory and practical application was explained. One of the possible tools is the organization of public hearings. This method was exactly what the local community was looking for, which was held shortly after.

What came out of this?

The people agreed upon that an Public Environmental Impact Assessment (PEIA) of the plans of the Andash Mining Company was needed. We invited experts who could tell them what could be the impacts of the plans, and both local as thematic experts were presented to give their scientific opinion and provide conclusions and recommendations.

What did they do with this report afterwards?

The PEIA was sent to the Andash Mining Company, The State Agency of environmental protection, as well to the Oblast and local government. At the same time the local community was informed by leaflets we distributed.

How did these parties respond?

After a press conference and a second public hearing, we decided to organise a round table where all involved parties, this means, the company, the government and the people from the Talas District would get together and give their opinion on the PEIA.

What was the general atmosphere during the round table?

For me as a moderator it was very difficult to find a compromise between the conflicting parties and find a set of common understanding. We always try to prevent conflicts, but this is not always possible.

What outcome did you get then?

Representatives of the Andash Mining Company agreed to partially incorporate the recommendations and change their project accordingly. They were not clear about which recommendations they would include. They defined a period (February 2007) in which all this should happen, but nothing happened so far.

The local people sent a letter and called to the Andash Mining Company, but all they got as an answer was “We are not ready yet..”

And what about the state officials?

At the same time the state regulation on “reallocation of grounds for mining” came into the picture. Again people were worried about what this would mean for them. They tried to arrange a meeting with the vice-prime minister at that time, Mr. Usenov Danyar. He told them not to worry too much, since the regulation was not ratified yet. But it appeared that it was already active. He promised to make an investigation about this case. The political situation in Kyrgyzstan was changing rapidly, so the promise of the vice-prime minister appeared useless.

In the meantime the Andash Mining Company refused to give any information, blaming the instable politic situation.

This was not acceptable for the local community. They required that their life could go on as usual, and if there should be decisions that affected them directly, they should be involved.

We believe that the right to self-determination is a basic right for every citizen.

So what were the results at last?

While the Andash Mining Company used “prehistoric” methods to please the local population, like distributing blankets for the local hospital and giving gasoline to the farmers, they forgot to listen to the people that would suffer damage by their activities.

The local community closed the road to the mining site recently for the company.

People now know that they have the right to decide on their own future, and have the right to proper information.

What learned other similar project from this?

Another mining company, called “Jeruy” watched the Andash experience closely, and learned that involvement of the local population is essential. They asked us to organise a roundtable, which resulted in a joint action plan on how public participation might work in their project. It is rewarding to see that the method of public participation can help to resolve issues in an early stage. We are satisfied that we can contribute to these processes.

For more information please contact Milieukontakt, Ms. Galina Cheban, telephone +996-9027676, milieukontakt@saimanet.kg

Riny Heijdendael and Irina Kalmykova

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