Batken Province, Kyrgyz Republic
Batken includes the agriculturally rich Fergana Valley and the surrounding mountain ranges. This area was heavily exploited by the Soviet Union (USSR) for strategic minerals including gold, mercury, antimony and uranium. Since the breakup of the USSR, the mineral economy in Batken has largely collapsed, leaving severe legacy environmental contamination issues and the potential for increased incidence of environmental disease within the communities. Two Soviet-era mining/smelting sites were of particular concern: Aidarken Township in Kadamjay District, among the world’s largest mercury operations, and the antimony smelting operations in Kadamjay City.
Since 2016, TIFO has collaborated with another NGO to assess potential metals-related health risks to visiting international personnel and to identify measures to mitigate those risks. The team performed environmental screening of water, soil, and air, worked with a government-run laboratory on sample analysis, helped develop risk mitigation protocols and environmental monitoring plans for the NGO’s staff, reviewed monitoring data and provided follow-up recommendations for further protocols.
Screening results indicated that primary metals of concern were antimony, arsenic, and mercury. Results were compared to both US standards and the more restrictive Kyrgyz standards, which are based on USSR regulations. Soil results routinely exceeded Kyrgyz standards for the three metals. No samples exceeded the US residential screening levels at the Aidarkan sites, however several samples from Kadamjay exceeded the antimony and arsenic US residential screening levels. No soil samples at either site exceeded the US soil screening level for occupational scenarios. Water and air results were found to be below Kyrgyz and US standards.
Based on results from environmental sampling, TIFO continues to provide recommendations for health and safety protocols to reduce exposures to contaminated soils and reviews monitoring data and ongoing mitigation measures.