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“Centerra operates on a fully legal contract, signed by previous Kyrgyz officials,” said Asel Doolotkeldieva, a researcher in Kyrgyz politics the University of Exeter in Britain. “This contract is not to be overruled by street protesters or a bunch of revolutionary-oriented politicians.”

Still, others say that a lack of transparency in the government’s dealings with Centerra Gold has raised suspicions over who is benefiting from Kumtor’s wealth.

Bakyt Beshimov, a former Kyrgyz parliamentarian living in the U.S., says that politicians have long used Kumtor for political and financial ends.

Kumtor, from the beginning, was a corrupt project,” Mr. Beshimov said. “More than 30 percent of Kumtor belongs to Centerra Gold, more than 30 percent belongs to the Kyrgyz government. The question is, who owns the third part of the share? It’s uncertain. [Centerra Gold] explains that the shares were bought on the financial market, but that’s not so convincing for the Kyrgyz public.”

The environmental impact of the mine is also an emotive issue in Kyrgyzstan: In 1998, a cyanide spillage poisoned water supplies close to the mine.