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Eastern Promise: Is Kazakhstan our new mining hotspot?

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Eastern Promise: Is Kazakhstan our new mining hotspot?

Mining is full of quiet achievers; be it individuals, companies, or even countries.

Globally speaking Australia, Canada, South Africa, China, India and the US are in focus every day, but what about the countries that are the quiet achievers?

What about Chile, Ghana, Kazakhstan?

Kazakhstan has been touted as one of world’s best endowed states when it comes to high class deposits, if perhaps one of the world’s most overlooked.

It is the world’s largest uranium producer under IAEA standards, the fourth largest copper producer (with 40 million tonnes in proven reserves), has the world’s ninth largest proven gold reserve and almost the same levels of zinc, but often fails to rate a mention.

As Austrade states “Kazakhstan is one of the world’s most promising emerging markets for natural resources”, and importantly for Australian operators it is looking to double mineral production within the next five years.

Kazakh president Nazarbayev outlined a gold production goal of 70 million tonnes per year before 2015.

This has created a high potential for Australian operators, with the potential to rate as highly as China, after it rated ahead of the major Australian trade partner, ranked at 59th according to the World Bank’s 2010 ‘Doing Business’ survey.

The nation is making a major bid to attract investment in to the region, changing its mining laws and allocating nearly a billion dollars for new geological exploration programs in the region.

The country's government approved close to USD $885 million for the implementation of the new program, according to its vice minister of new technologies Nuralan Surabayev.

The program will focus on the search for new deposits in the country as well as a new Geological Exploration Centre to further attract investment.

“Under the industry blueprint, the Kazakhstan government has stipulated several priorities for the mining industry. Large enterprises are charged with increasing production of basic metals while small and medium-sized businesses will be supported to establish high value-added end production utilising these base metals,” Austrade explained.

Business has already started growing between Australian and Kazakhstan with approximately $38 million worth of goods and services exported to the country.

At the fifth Astana Mining and Metallurgy Conference, held in June this year, more than 1200 people gathered from around 30 countries gathered to discuss the developments in the nation and its potential growth path.

Much of the focus of the show was on the modernisation and development of the industry and how to increase its productivity, similar to that of Australia’s own mining industry.

As part of this push for development Kazakhstan announced a change to its existing mining codes to encourage international investment.

Its prime minister, Serik Akhmetov, told the country’s Ministry of Industry and New Technologies to have the concept for a new Mining Code ready by July 1 to increase the nation’s attractiveness to explorers.

It is also considering tax incentives for foreign investors.

Aset Isekeshev, Kazakhstan’s minister of industry and new technologies, said Rio Tinto is already looking to spend more than $13 million on exploration, whilst the government is looking to spend around USD$ 1 billion to fund increased exploration.

The country’s positive growth also saw the Business Monitor rate Kazakhstan at the top of its Risk/Reward rating “largely due to the substantial rewards on offer in these countries relative to other European players,” it said.

“We expect Kazahkstan's coal production to reach 123 million tonnes by 2017, at an annual average growth rate of 2.1 per cent from 2012. Our forecast is slightly below the government's aim of achieving production capacity of 138mtpa by 2016 and up to 151mtpa by 2020. Most of the growth will come from Bogatyr Coal, as the company enters the third stage of developing its Bogatyr mine.”

Following its success in Russia, Austmine is also looking to Kazakhstan, with its CEO Robert Trzebski outlining a new mission with eight to ten Australian METS companies within the coming months.

“This’ll be our sixth visit to Kazakhstan,” he toldAustralian Mining.

The event, which will be held in September and worked as part of the larger Mining World Central Asia exhibition, where Australia is slated to sign a MoU similar in nature to that signed with Russia, which will aims at greater co-operation between Australia and Kazakhstan enabling mutual exchange of knowledge and expertise, including scientific research into mining solutions.

Trzebski explained that “while the currency devaluation has some questioning the country’s stability, the truth is there are still massive opportunities, particularly in base metals and maybe even uranium.”

He went on to add that state of coal, however, is a different one, as the commodity is battered by poor prices globally.

“Kazakhstan has always offered great opportunities, and has always been ahead in the region in terms of adopting technology and implementing new technology.”

This sentiment was echoed by Palaris’ Joe Carr, who stated “Kazakhstan is modernising”.

He went onto say that the country may have even more potential if it effectively implements and follows through on its laws relating to approvals processes and foreign investment.

One Australian manufacturer, Wollongong NSW-based Leussink recently teamed up with German bearing company Corts Engineering to refurbish steel mills in Kazakhstan, and help modernise the country and its industry.

The country is providing a greenfield opportunity for Australian companies, as it ramps up modernisation and creates a new mining hotspot.


 

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