Inspiring Women associated with Kumtor Gold

A recent visit to the Kumtor gold mine in Kyrgyzstan provided opportunities to meet a series of inspiring women. These include staff eager to adopt best practice and entrepreneurs who form part of Kumtor's local procurement and supply chain.


Last week, a team comprising Peter Easton, Chris Routh and I (see picture further above) visited the Kumtor gold mine in the Kyrgyz Republic. Each visit to this country is very fascinating, not only because almost each time I visit I learn that the government has been changing (Kyrgyzstan's Acting Prime Minister Resigns). This time, I found three encounters with Kumtor’s female staff and suppliers particularly inspiring.

First, I was inspired by the translator in the environmental department at the Kumtor mine site. She had already been very supportive in translating training materials aimed at improving wildlife and bird monitoring at Kumtor’s tailings management facility. However, her enthusiasm to learn more about and actively participate in the wildlife monitoring program was contagious. She motivated her colleagues and my team members alike.

Second, I was impressed by the human resource manager at the Kumtor mine. She shared with us examples which highlight Kumtor’s considerable efforts to maximize local hiring and improve the credibility of that process. I learned, for example, that vacancy announcements for drivers can attract upwards of 1,500 applications from the region which is characterized by high level of unemployment. Using a committee approach involving external community monitors, applicants are screened. Approximately 100 are short listed for formal interviews. Just imagine the enormous administrative effort associated with this process.

Candidates ultimately selected to fill the vacancy will be very happy to have landed a very desirable job with Kumtor. However, some of the many rejected candidates express their frustrations by accusing the company and community monitors of unfair or unethical practices, despite all the transparent measures in place to ensure otherwise. Such accusations may be more reflective of general frustration of people whose experience is reflected in the Kyrgyz Republic’s lowest (=worst) 10 percent ranking in the Transparency Internationals Corruption Perception Index or statistics contained in EBRD’s 2013 Transition Report. It notes that over one-third of Kyrgyz SMEs say that unofficial payments are required in everyday business.

During interviews with several business leaders whose products are important elements of Kumtor’s local supply chain (see also Local Procurement in Canadian Mining Sector), I found myself inspired by the story of one woman entrepreneur. She was a former employee of a bankrupted sewing and garment manufacturing company. However, 10 years ago, she started what has now become a successful and award winning sewing company. Her company is a supplier of personal protective clothing to Kumtor and other private and public sector organizations. And her company provides jobs to dozens of people.

I hope we will be able to expand Kumtor and Centerra’s 2012 reporting and capture some of these stories in their 2013 sustainability reports.