On March 6, 2013 one of the information agencies reported that Mr. Boris Tikhomirov, the Director of Central Asian Programs of the German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU), has made several statements, which were factually wrong, contradict NABU’s own long-standing programs in the Kyrgyz Republic, and misrepresent the impacts and activities of the Kumtor gold mine. We address main issues further below:
1. The Kumtor Company is no longer conducting exploration activities in the Koendy license area, even though the Company had received all necessary permissions for exploration activities from the State Agency of Geology and Mineral Resources. The area is not located within the legally designated Sarychat-Ertash Reserve (SCER). Kumtor’s exploration activities were suspended in mid-2012.
2. NABU’s website highlights the organization’s views about the main threats to snow leopards: “The snow leopard is threatened with extinction from hunting for its fur and bones, poaching and illegal trade.” This explains why NABU and others have been resourcing and implementing important programs to curb illegal hunting and trade of endangered species. With this in mind, accusations against our Company and statements by the NABU representative that “the greatest danger for the leopard is disturbed habitat, not the poachers” seem to be strange.
3. NABU representatives participated in the biodiversity workshop which was hosted by Kumtor in October 2012. During this workshop the main threats and opportunities to regional biodiversity were discussed with leading Kyrgyz experts, from conservation NGOs, Government agencies and the academic community. Mr. Alexander Vereshagin, Deputy Director of the Sarychat Ertash Nature Reserve, and others highlighted that snow leopards had been almost completely decimated by poachers prior to the Kumtor mine starting production. However, they also noted that the numbers of snow leopards and its prey species, such as argali, had substantially increased since the start of the Kumtor mine.
This is being attributed in parts to additional funding and activities mobilized through Kumtor and others, and directed towards NGO-led monitoring, conservation and capacity building initiatives. Additional positive impacts are being attributed to Kumtor’s very presence and its enforced no-hunting policy within its concession area. This means that NABU’s suggestions that Kumtor’s presence or activities may somehow be contributing to the “extermination” of snow leopards or other species is unfounded and wrong.
Kumtor is committed to continue its support for science-based, collaborative and outcome oriented nature conservation programs, as outlined further in our web-posted Biodiversity Management Strategy and Plan which can be accessed here.
This commitment is further demonstrated by the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Fauna & Flora International (FFI), a conservation organization, which was signed in November 2012. This MOU provides a framework for cooperation between the two organizations with respect to issues concerning biodiversity conservation management in the SCER and the wider Central Tien Shan landscape. This includes support for programs specifically aimed at protecting snow leopards.
And the last, Kumtor management has never received any formal requests from NABU to organize a corridor for snow leopard in Sarychat-Ertash reserve.