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The Kumtor gold mine, in Kumtor, Kyrgyzstan, on May 28.Vladimir Voronin/The Associated Press

Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday said it has launched legal proceedings against Canada’s Centerra Gold Inc. over cybersecurity and employee rights violations at Kumtor Gold Mine, which the company used to run.

The criminal lawsuit alleges that Centerra has blocked user and administrator access to Kumtor’s computers since May, 2021, shortly before the government appointed a temporary external manager at the mine, the government statement said.

This led the State Committee for National Security of the Kyrgyz Republic to open the criminal case against Centerra.

Centerra said it restricted access to computers when the government confiscated its employees’ computers and passwords in order to preserve the integrity of its global IT infrastructure and its confidential information.

“Once again, it appears that the Kyrgyz government is trying to divert attention from the fact that it sent secret police to seize the Kumtor gold mine in violation of longstanding agreements with Centerra Gold Inc.,” the miner said.

Centerra, whose Toronto-listed shares have plunged 40 per cent this year, added that the mine’s safety systems were not impacted by its actions. Its shares were down 0.5 per cent on Wednesday.

The chairman of Kumtor Gold Company workers’ union, Kalysbek Ryspaev, said in a statement: “Centerra’s actions represent a gross violation of the rights and safety of our employees, showing contempt for the laws of Kyrgyzstan.”

Kyrgyzstan has a long history of disputes with Centerra Gold over how to share profits from the former Soviet republic’s biggest industrial enterprise.

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