Kumtor Gold Mine
Amid eternal snows at a phenomenal 4200m altitude, Kumtor is the world's eighth-largest gold field and produces an estimated 12% of Kyrgyzstan's GDP. Throughout the summer of 2013 protestors clashed with police while barricading the access road and attempting to cut power supplies to the mine. Local people seemed divided as to which story they believe about the motivations of the protesters. Were they genuinely concerned for better environmental conditions? Was it part of a political move agitating for the mine's nationalisation? Or was this simply an attempt to persuade the mine's owners to spend more money in local communities as retribution for the mine not paying their dues to a major protection racket?
Disputes and nationalisation threats continued for several years, until a 2017 agreement that saw the company agreeing to make massive investments in cancer-support and environment-protection funds administered by the Kyrgyz government. Whatever the changing situation, there are no tours of the mine operations and even getting up onto the higher sections of the access road requires a permit to get past the various checkpoints.