May 11, 2017
April 21 and 22, the program in Environmental Management and Sustainable Development (EM&SD) sent professors Orozbaev and Asanov along with four students two Bard exchange students on a site tour at the Kumtor Mining Area in Issyk-Kul. This site tour was organized as a part of the practicum for the Environmental and Socio-economic Impact of Mining course. Participants shared their thoughts on the outing:
“I really enjoyed our trip to Kumtor Gold Mine. The drive was awesome—we got to stop for pictures at Issyk-Kul and see the Tien-Shan Mountains the entire time we were in the car. The guesthouse we stayed in was also very nice; the family fed us great food and I’ve since come to the conclusion there is no such thing as bad borsch. Once we got to the mine I couldn’t believe how big it was. The pictures that I had seen previously didn’t do it justice. Our tour guides seemed very knowledgeable about how the mine is run. The most interesting part of the tour was the factory. The machinery processing all of that material is huge, and it was impressive to see the factory in action. Overall it was a really great day.”
Devin Fraleigh, Bard College
“Going to the Kumtor Mine was a really amazing and unique experience for me as an exchange student. While Kumtor is a Canadian company, I got to see how a mine is operated in a different country and interact with local engineers, factory workers, and other professionals that all come together and make up the massive Kumtor Mine. I really enjoyed seeing the massive mining pit that is central to the entire operation. It was unreal how huge it was, and it is hard to imagine that a whole mountain once stood there. There was also a real emphasis on safety and the well-being of the workers. However, I do wonder how much of that is just superficial, as the conditions in the factory itself seemed to be a little sketchy. The air quality was bad and I was coughing a lot within the building.
When we went to see the tailings pond, we went with someone from their environmental department. I would be interested to look into the mine some more as no mine in the whole world can have zero environmental impact. Overall, I had an awesome time seeing the mining process here in Kyrgyzstan. I would definitely go back to Kumtor given the chance.”
Emma Donohue, Bard College
“As part of the course dedicated to various of impacts of mining activity, I had a field trip to Kumtor Gold Company, Kyrgyzstan’s largest open pit mine site and investment project. As a soon-to-be graduating student from EMSD program of AUCA, I would say the trip was great. This field trip provided me with first hand practical experience. After all, combining field trips with theoretical study is what makes our EMSD courses unique.
“I am graduating within two months and I will certainly miss the student field trips I’ve gone one during my time at AUCA. About three years ago, we had our first visit to Kumtor Gold Company in the fall. I got altitude sickness as we arrived. As a result, I spent the entire day in bed with an oxygen mask and missing the opportunity to see the site. This time, however, I got to see the site’s operations. I was fully prepared and followed the instructions of the prior medical check.
“As I presented on the impact of mining sites on local wildlife, the site visit was interesting as you could see how roads actively used in mining could impact on migration. The workers told us they have foxes and wolves. Due to the highly restricted nature of the site, some animals threatened by hunters find shelter in the area—possibly because the miners do not hunt. In addition, I was able to think about the formation of a high plateau as a result of plate techniques. At the mine site, I also got to see the life cycle of metal resources. Kumtor’s external exhaust does not impact air quality, but I could clearly tell the impact of the internal air quality on the employees. In regards to water quality, the mine clearly uses lots of water, but it reprocesses and reuses it before sending back to the main river. Given the economic benefit of Kumtor, the land impact cannot be over-prioritized. Water use risks polluting the Nary river. Overall, though, Kumtor does practice guidelines of sustainable development in mining and mineral processing. This can be seen in their active water treatment. In short, It was interesting to see the open pit mine, rock waste, and tailings.
“Generally, combining field trips and theoretical study always works great. This pedagogy helps us learn more and see the real-world impact. It increases our long-term understanding and interest in the subject. Theses field trips bring ecology students together and helps us foster community and common objectives. Field is knowledge because we could empirically observe and learn from activities and practices”
Daler Kaziev, AUCA
“Before the start of our tour, we went through the standard procedure: medical check, putting on protective clothing, and receiving instruction. The tour itself was very intense. We visited the camp, the quarry, the factory, and the tailings, all while employees briefly introduced the work of their department.
“The sheer volume of production is impressive. The work goes 24 hours a day, and the tailing pond manages tons of material. The mine has strict rules for both employees and visitors. The height of the mining site varies between 3600 and 4200, which significantly affects the well-being. These real-world experience gives us a much more practical understanding of the material studied in the classroom.”
Nurzhan Chunueva, AUCA