Biodiversity & Positioning – Problem or Solution?

At a recent workshop facilitated by Prizma, stakeholders welcomed Kumtor Gold’s efforts to pursue the development of a biodiversity management strategy and related collaboration with stakeholders. Kumtor is the first mining company in the Kyrgyz Republic to do so. Will this address the chasm between perception and reality?

Compared to its size and small population, Kyrgyzstan boasts a disproportional endowment of biodiversity, including ‘Red Book’ listed snow leopards and Marco Polo sheep. Both species have seen a come-back at the Sarychat Ertash Nature Reserve which is located adjacent to the high altitude Kumtor Gold Mine. However, despite of evidence to the contrary, previous Kyrgyz Government appointed Interagency and Parliamentary Commissions criticized Centerra Gold’s Kumtor Gold Mine and asserted adverse biodiversity impacts. In response, Kumtor is repositioning itself.

As part of this process, Kumtor hosted a biodiversity focus group meeting on October 19, 2012 in Bishkek (see also Kumtor’s recent press release). This workshop was attended by representatives from the State Agency for Environment and Forestry, the Sarychat Ertash Nature Reserve, the Naryn Nature Reserve, Kyrgyz biodiversity experts, such as Prof. Emil Shukurov, Editor of Kyrgyzstan’s “Red Book” of endangered species, conservation NGOs, such as Flora and Fauna International-Kyrgyzstan, and representatives from Kumtor. The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Don Proebstel, a conservation biologist, and Mehrdad Nazari, an ESIA & CSR Advisor, with Prizma LLC.

Many interesting topics and questions emerged during the workshop, three of which are listed below:

1) Should a company’s biodiversity management strategy be subject to approval by the Governmet/multiple ministries? The Management Plan for the Sarychat Ertash Nature Reserve, the development of which was facilitated by Flora and Fauna International with support of the EBRD, IFC and Kumtor, has been awaiting Government approval since 2008.

2) How should the only (mining) company in Kyrgyzstan expressing an interest in supporting biodiversity research, monitoring and conservation chose between the many competing needs of specially protected nature areas and stakeholders requesting support? There are over 80 protected areas in the Kyrgyz Republic and all are believed to be under-resourced.

3) What are impacts, roles and responsibilities of other important actors, such as shepherds (overgrazing), ‘hunting farms’ (international trophy hunting) and various government agencies at local and national levels?

The media coverage related to Kumtor's workshop can be downloaded here: Kyrgyz News digest (Eng) - 22Oct12. For me, valuable outcomes from the workshop included these three elements:

a) It applied a systems thinking-based approach, instilled a sense of urgency and confirmed a shared desire for collaboration.

b) It generated a shared understanding of the current state of knowledge, including identification of knowledge gaps and major drivers of impacts.

c) It identified immediate intervention opportunities for which Kumtor has now earmarked some funding.

What are your thoughts on questions raised during the workshop? Do you feel that Kumtor’s effort to develop a biodiversity management strategy and support related initiative is just ‘green washing’? Or can this contribute to transforming the mining sector in the Kyrgyz Republic to engage in and innovate biodiversity conservation in the country?

Your may also be  interested in this updateBiodiversity Management Strategy & Plan for Gold Mine