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Alternatives

The future of the mine, the smelter and ultimately the town of Khaidarkan itself largely depends on how mercury production can be replaced with other economic activities. Sustaining people’s livelihoods beyond cinnabar mining and processing will be the main objective and here the UN project and the Kyrgyz action plan have sketched out potential solutions:

 

Gold mining

Given the history of the area, existing experience and
skills, and technical equipment in place, activities related to extraction of other, less hazardous minerals, appears to be a real option. This is recognized in the Country Development Strategy of the Kyrgyz Republic for 2009–11 that prioritizes the development of gold mining and production. There are many gold deposits in southern Kyrgyzstan that were considered technically challenging during Soviet times and therefore not further developed. With new technologies in place, their exploitation becomes feasible and constitutes a promising opportunity for the entire region. However, since many of these deposits are small, individual processing facilities and tedious bureaucratic processes for licenses are costly and
may have a deterrent effect. As an alternative, ore mined at those deposits could be transported to processing plants in China or Kazakhstan. To retain the benefis of such operations in Kyrgyzstan, it would be of interest to develop a hub for ore processing in southern Kyrgyzstan, for example in Khaidarkan. The existing ore enrichment plant is suitable for this type of work although it requires refurbishment.

The Khaidarkan plant is interested in diversifying its activities towards gold extraction and processing and has recently received an offer to process gold ores mined about 400 kilometres east of Khaidarkan. The estimated investment required to initiate gold processing is between US$1 and 2 million.

 

Industrial minerals

Apart from gold, there are also opportunities for non-metallic mining in the area around Khaidarkan. Construction materials, such as magnesite, serpentinite and gypsum appear to be very attractive for the local market. Magnesite and serpentinite are used for fie resistant bricks, which are essential for cement kilns: with two newly constructed cement plants in the vicinity of Khaidarkan, there are potential clients nearby. Gypsum is of use in cement production and in construction materials, likely to fid markets in the current construction boom in southern Kyrgyzstan and the Ferghana Valley.


Bentonite, a clay material that can be mined locally,
serves many purposes ranging from cosmetics to drilling agents. It is commonly used as a capping material for environmental remediation. Given the many problematic areas in Khaidarkan requiring remediation, bentonite production on the site would be very useful.

Agriculture and small-scale development

While for the rest of southern Kyrgyzstan agriculture is the main economic sector, it is relatively poorly developed in the Khaidarkan valley, which is mainly limited by harsh climatic conditions. Agriculture in the valley could however be improved by optimizing land use, strengthening local food processing and improving the marketing of agricultural products. By increasing the local production and promoting related businesses, the valley could become more self-sustaining and less vulnerable to economic changes such as decline of the mercury industry.

Other non-industrial opportunities lie in artisanal products and services such as carpet weaving, handicrafts and souvenir production. Car repair, plumbing, construction are also activities where local business can be developed as an income source. An initiative called

 

 

 

 

 

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