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Canadian gold miner beset by angry protests in Kyrgyzstan

A general view of the Kumtor mine in Kyrgyzstan.

VLADIMIR PIROGOV/REUTERS

About 700 protesters, some on horseback, besieged a gold mine run by Canadian-based miner Centerra Gold in Kyrgyzstan, demanding its nationalization and more social benefits, officials said Thursday.

As part of the protest that has been going on for several days, the demonstrators earlier this week cut road access leading to the Kumtor mine operated by Centerra.

But on Thursday some of the protesters entered a power transformer unit and cut electricity to the mine before dispersing for the night.

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The company said the mine has begun an orderly shutdown of its milling facility using power from a backup diesel generator and that mining operations have been suspended other than those to manage ice and waste.

Centerra said it is working with the government and local authorities to find a peaceful resolution of the situation.

"If grid power and road access is not restored in a timely manner, the company expects that there will be a material negative impact on the company's operations, including its gold production and financial results," Centerra said Thursday.

The Kyrgyzstani cabinet held an emergency meeting to discuss the situation. Officials said that if the electricity supply isn't quickly restored, it could lead to an emergency shutdown of the mine.

Kumtor, which accounts for about 12 per cent of the economy of the impoverished ex-Soviet nation, was at the centre of heated political debate among those seeking its nationalization and officials who believe that would deter much-needed foreign investment.

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