Kyrgyzstan has denied that it wants to transfer control of its largest iron mine to neighbouring China, following claims that it would do so to pay off debt to Beijing.
China has been reinforcing its presence in the region, which has generated tension among the six million residents of the poor, politically unstable Central Asian country.
In 2019, clashes erupted between Kyrgyz villagers and Chinese employees at a Chinese-owned mine in the mountainous majority-Muslim republic.
“The transfer of the Jetym-Too deposit to China is a lie,” said Daiyrbek Orounbekov, in charge of the president’s information policy.
“We will develop everything ourselves 100 percent,” he added on his Facebook page on Thursday, adding that local workers would be hired.
Orounbekov’s statement comes a few days before China is to host its first summit with the leaders of five ex-Soviet Central Asian nations.
China is Kyrgyzstan’s main creditor, holding more than 40 percent of the country’s foreign debt, which exceeds $4 billion.
Kyrgyzstan is also part of Beijing’s sweeping Belt and Road Initiative to build a massive global trade network.
According to Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, the Jetym-Too mine reserves, in the country’s east, could be worth $50 billion — a figure that has not been verified independently.
Its exploitation has been long delayed by the country’s frequent political turmoil. Residents have also expressed their opposition for environmental reasons.
Last year, Kyrgyzstan nationalised the long-contested Kumtor gold mine — one of the world’s largest — following years of conflict with the previous owner, Canada’s Centerra Gold.
Source : Barron’s