In a major mining milestone for Kazakhstan and London-listed Central Asia Metals, the company has commenced copper production at the old Kounrad site in the country’s south, and has also sold its first batch of copper cathode. The copper is made by using metal extracted from waste dumps left over during Soviet-era mines. The first 504 tonne-shipment has been bought by Traxys Europe.
Central Asia Metals’ chief executive Nick Clarke says, “It is a significant milestone that we have sold the first batch of copper cathodes and started to generate revenues from the Kounrad SX-EW plant.”
The company built the $47 million processing plant at the site 18 months ago and it now employs 250 people. “This year we expect to produce about 5000 tonnes. We built it under budget, on time, and we are now producing, and so the company is very happy to have its first operating mine in Kazakhstan,” says Nick Clarke.
He says the plant’s copper cathode output is expected to increase to an annual capacity of 10,000 tonnes next year and a decision will be made whether to build another plant to eventually double production. The company believes the product will be bought by European, Turkish or Chinese customers.
Central Asia Metals is one of relatively few junior miners in Kazakhstan to successfully take a project through to production. The copper ore it is now processing is taken from waste dumps at a deposit once mined by Kazakhmys near the central Kazakh city of Balkhash. The dumps derived from open-pit mining operations that began in the 1930s and continued until 2005.
Kazakhstan was extensively mapped by Soviet geologists, however it has seen relatively little investment from junior miners to replenish depleting reserves of copper, gold and other industrial and precious metals. Official data shows less than 15% of the country’s explored metals reserves are currently in production, with only 75 of 282 identified gold deposits and 19 of 55 iron ore deposits in operation.