Kyrgyzstan bans foreign companies from future mining projects

MOSCOW, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan on Friday banned foreign companies from future large mining projects, although existing licences are unaffected, in the first major order by its new president.

The economy of the Central Asian nation relies heavily on gold mining, particularly after two other sources of wealth - trade with neighbouring China and remittances from migrant labourers working in Russia - were hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, who was inaugurated on Thursday, signed the order which only allows the development of “subsoil areas of national importance” by a state-owned company.

Firms currently holding rights to develop deposits in the country are excluded from the order. Canada’s Centerra Gold Inc is the largest foreign investor in Kyrgyzstan. It mines gold at Kumtor, Kyrgyz largest gold deposit.

Kyrgyzstan has been considering options for development of its Zhetim iron ore deposit in recent months. The country’s gross domestic product dropped 8.6% in 2020, the biggest decline in 26 years. (Reporting by Mariya Gordeyeva, Polina Devitt and Olga Dzyubenko. Writing by Polina Devitt. Editing by Mark Potter)