JUNE 21 2011 (The Conway Bulletin) – It is difficult to overstate the potential importance of the Konimansuri Kalon silver deposit in Tajikistan.
The IFC, part of the World Bank, which is advising the government on how best to exploit the deposit, reckons that mining the silver could earn Tajikistan $2b. In 2010 according to the CIA World Factbook, Tajikistan’s total national income was just under $6b.
Reuters reported that the Chinese companies considering bidding for the contract have pulled out and that only Kazzinc, which is owned by Switzerland-based Glencore, and BHP Billiton remain in the race to partner the government.
Tajikistan is poor and mountainous. Inflation is rife and living standards are dropping.
Alongside battling a growing insurgency in the mountains, the government is pursuing a heavy-handed policy against practising Muslims which analysts say is likely to back fire and push people towards militant Islamists.
Corruption is rife in Tajikistan and the economy is reliant on a Soviet-era copper smelter with opaque finances and cash from remittances. Estimates say that money from people working abroad accounts for 50% of the Tajik economy. The illegal drug trade from neighbouring Afghanistan is also an important source of income.
The Konimansuri Kalon silver deposit, located around 50km from Tajikistan’s second city of Khujand in the northwest of the country, isn’t going to change the situation overnight but it does offer some hope.
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(News report from Issue No. 46, published on June 28 2011)