Mining in Kazakhstan – What are the Opportunities for Australian METS?
Ahead of Austmine’s 8th annual Mission to Kazakhstan, Robert Trzebski, Chief Operating Officer of Austmine, took some time out to explain why Australian METS need to sit up and pay attention to the opportunities Kazakhstan can provide:
Kazakhstan produces a wealth of different metals and minerals, from coal, gold, iron ore, copper, ferrochromium, uranium through to zinc. It is still an emerging market, and despite the mining downturn being faced globally, many of the leading mining companies in Kazakhstan need to modernise their operations. Most of these companies are listed on significant overseas markets, but the majority of their existing projects are way behind world standards in terms of efficiencies and cost. Their large-scale operations need to be upgraded urgently, in order to bring them in line with many of the best practice levels around the world for cost, productivity, efficiency, social license to operate and safety.
This naturally is providing opportunities for Australian technology suppliers. However, the miners are not really looking at bulk equipment, but niche technologies or solutions to drive efficiencies across operations. This is certainly where we’ve seen successes in the past, from companies such as RME, Maptek, Micromine, Ausenco, Worley Parsons, Glencore Technology and SMEC.
With the Australian dollar being a favourable export currency at the moment, there is a big drive from the leading Kazakhstan mining companies to utilise our industry best practice technologies and services to increase their output.
Many operations, both open pit and underground are large scale, owned by huge companies. Nickel, zinc and copper are the attractive commodities right now and are in abundance in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is also the number one producer of uranium, with over 80% of their uranium being exported to India. It is only a matter of time before uranium will be required again in significant amounts around the world, so this is certainly a future opportunity to keep an eye on!
The Austmine mission to Kazakhstan is divided into two parts, with the first part being involvement in the Australian Pavilion at the Mining World Central Asia 2014 exhibition in Almaty, 16 - 18 September and the second part being a series of site visits and meetings with senior representatives from the major mining companies in the country. This is a unique experience to get face to face time with typically hard to access senior executives. Companies included in site visits and/or meetings are:
Kazzinc is a major fully integrated zinc producer with considerable copper, precious metals and lead credits and is part of the Glencore global metals trading group. The mission includes a site visit to their Ust-Kamenogorsk Metallurgical Complex, which consists of a 190k tpa Zinc Refinery, a 144k tpa Lead Smelter and a Precious Metals Refinery . The production site is located near Kazzinc's administration, within the city of Ust-Kamenogorsk, with all plants sharing a common infrastructure.
Kaz Minerals is a high growth copper company focused on large scale, low cost open pit mining in Kazakhstan. They operate 4 underground mines in the East Region and one open pit mine at Bozymchak, Kyrgyzstan and are entering a new phase of development, with major greenfield projects Bozshakol, Aktogay and Koksay. Bozshakol is one of the largest undeveloped copper deposits in the world.
Tau-Ken Samruk is a holding company set up to manage the Kazakh state’s holdings in various mining projects and has entered into an exploration joint venture with Rio Tinto.
Kazatomprom is the national operator of Kazakhstan’s exports of uranium and its compounds, rare metals, nuclear fuel, special equipment, technologies and dual-use materials. It owns 20 operating uranium mines across the country.