Kyrgyzstan arrests dozens over Canada gold mine protest

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AFP) - Kyrgyzstan authorities on Friday arrested dozens of protestors who seized an electricity station and cut off power to a Canadian-owned gold mine which is one of the country's biggest assets.

Prosecutors said that 92 people were arrested as security forces moved in to disperse the protest and dismantle their tents. But this then sparked a new protest as thousands of locals began a march to call for the release of those detained.

The protestors are demanding the nationalisation of the Kumtor mine which has been wholly owned by the Canadian mining group Centerra Gold since it started operations in 1997.

Hundreds of people on Thursday stormed the local power station that supplies the high-altitude mine and cut off the electricity.

Centerra Gold said its production at the location has been temporarily halted as a result.

Kyrgyz officials said power was restored after the security operation but it was unclear if production at the mine would resume soon.

"Ninety-two people have been arrested, there are those who took direct part in the action to cut off power to Kumtor," Kyrgyzstan's prosecutor general Aida Salyanova told reporters in Bishkek.

Local media quoted eyewitnesses as saying 3,000 locals from the Dzheti-Oguzsky district where the power station is located then staged a march to demand their liberation.

The crowd was blocking roads and even occupying local administration buildings, the reports said.