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Kyrgyzstan chooses Snow leopard over gold

17 july 2012
The prime minister of Kyrgyzstan Omurbek Babanov reversed the Government’s decision to remove a piece of land from a nature reserve for gold extraction. The nature reserve is inhabited by snow leopards and manuls.

The territory of the nature reserve is overlapping with a major Kumtor gold field called. In 2009, the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic decided to remove 4380 hectares of the land – Petrov glacier – for mining.

The second threat to the reserve was the decision to remove another area, called Koyondu, from the reserve, and beginning of mining works there. Finally, the Ministry of nature resources of Kyrgyzia provided another company – Altyn Minerals – with a license for survey at another part of the nature reserve, called Uch-Kol. These areas are important parts of the reserve, as they serve as migration corridors for the endangered argali sheep.

Environmentalists, including WWF, opposed these decisions, citing another Governmental decree. According to it, “removal of land from protected nature areas is allowed only with the approval of the state environmental expert review”. And it is possible only if “their use for their primary purpose is impossible due to loss of their special nature conservation, scientific, historical, cultural, and other importance”.

Our voices against these decisions were heard by the deputies thanks to the media, and we are very grateful to them, and are happy that many citizens joined our campaign to save of the nature reserve”, says Farida Balbakova, WWF project coordinator in Kyrgyzia.

After the decision of the prime minister to save the reserve, all works of the leading Nort American gold producer, Centerra Gold and Altyn Minerals on the territory of the Sarychat-Ertash nature reserve were suspended.

Besides the snow leopard, argali and manul, the nature reserve is also inhabited by the marten, bear, golden eagle, bearded vulture, Himalayan vulture, cinereous Vulture, griffon vulture, saker falcon, Eurasian eagle-owl, and ibisbill.

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