Kyrgyzstan approves new PM to tackle gold dispute with Canadian firm

BISHKEK (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan's parliament voted on Thursday to approve former economy minister Temir Sariyev as prime minister after his predecessor resigned over a mining dispute with Canada's Centerra Gold.

Joomart Otorbayev quit last week after failing to clinch a deal with Centerra on the future of the Kumtor mine, the biggest gold deposit in the Central Asian state.

Sariyev, a 51-year-old economist, said before Thursday's vote in parliament that resolving the issue would be among his priorities.

"You should give full powers to the government, and this issue will be solved," he said, without elaborating.

Referring to opposition calls for Kumtor to be nationalized, he said: "Nationalization will only create certain risks and threats for us. We must seek other ways."

Centerra, which operates Kumtor, has been in talks with Kyrgyzstan for more than a year on a deal that would involve the ex-Soviet republic swapping its 32.7 percent stake in Centerra for half of a joint venture that would control the gold deposit.

But negotiations hit a new hurdle this month after Sariyev's predecessor Otorbayev said that instead of forming the long-discussed joint venture to run Kumtor, the government now wanted to increase its representation on Centerra's board of directors.

He said at the time that the joint venture was no longer in Kyrgyzstan's national interest because of Centerra's new, lower estimate of Kumtor's reserves. In February it estimated proven and probable reserves at 6.1 million ounces of contained gold as of end-2014, compared to 8.5 million a year earlier.

(Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)