EBRD Funds Clean-up Of Uranium Mining Waste In Kyrgyz Republic

Funding targets Ferghana Valley uranium mine waste

21 Sep 2021 by The Water Diplomat
LONDON, United Kingdom

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has announced its support for nuclear remediation works in Min-Kush in the Kyrgyz Republic. Min Kush is one of three sites in the Kyrgyz Republic with a legacy of uranium production in the Soviet era which has contaminated land and water in the region.

There is an urgency to the clean-up operations, as local streams feed into the Syr Darya River, which runs through the Ferghana Valley, and agricultural heartland. Similarly, there is the risk of contaminated mine water coming into contact with and polluting groundwater. Political tensions have existed between countries in Central Asia since the collapse of the Soviet Union, which have included water disputes between Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as well as problems related to mining waste in the Ferghana Valley between Kyrgyz Republic and downstream Uzbekistan.

These issues featured at a high-level meeting between the countries in Astana in 2018. The clean-up efforts in Kyrgyzstan are well underway and the aim is to complete them in the third quarter of 2021. The efforts are being funded by the Environmental Remediation Account for Central Asia, which pools donor funds from the European Union, Belgium, Norway, Switzerland and the United States to help the Kyrgyz republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to remediate their most urgent uranium legacies.

The fund was established in 2015 by the European Commission and became operational in 2016. In May 2021, a contract was signed for remediation works in Shekaftar in the Kyrgyz Republic. The mining complex in question includes three closed mines and eight mining waste disposal areas containing approximately 700,000 m³ of waste. A number of waste dumps are located in the vicinity of a village and a school. A joint mission of the European Commission and The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to the Kyrgyz Republic took place in 2017, and it was established that urgent measures were required in three locations: Mailuu-Suu, Min-Kush and Shekaftar.