Construction of Central Asia Metals’ Kounrad copper project plant near Balkhash in south-central Kazakhstan is complete and under budget. The company will commission the solvent extraction-electro winning (SX-EW) plant at the end of the month, with first copper production expected in April. 1

This major milestone comes as Central Asia plans to increase its ownership of the project, buying a 40% share from the SAT group which won a tender to purchase government entity SaryArka Social Entrepreneurial Corporation National Company JSC’s stake in Kounrad.

Central Asia took ownership of the waste dumps at the dormant Kounrad open-pit copper mine in 2010. The dumps had accumulated from operations at the site between 1936 and 2005, and copper will be extracted from them using a leaching process at the SX-EW plant.

Central Asia’s chief executive officer Nick Clarke says, “There has been extremely encouraging progress at Kounrad over the last quarter. The ability to achieve material completion of the project under budget and broadly in line with our initial schedule is a testament to our staff and partners in Kazakhstan.

“We remain confident that we will achieve our goal of commercial copper cathode production at Kounrad in April 2012 without additional funding.” The company is targeting initial copper production of 5000 tonnes for 2012.

The SX-EW plant with annual capacity of 10,000 tonnes was designed by the Beijing Research Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and took 16 months to reach material completion. Associated infrastructure including the installation and commissioning of overhead power lines and an electricity sub-station to deliver 8MW of power to the project has been completed. Central Asia also installed an 8km pipeline to supply the project’s water and constructed a 900 metre twin-track railway connected to the main Kazakhstan network.

Australian-based organization PPM Solutions will oversee the start-up of the $47 million SX-EW plant, with water testing and punch listing of the EW and SX circuits commencing in the last week of February. The plant operating and maintenance teams are on site and are now assuming responsibility of the plant from the construction team.

Central Asia is reviewing a number of proposals regarding the offtake of copper cathode from Kounrad. The increase in ownership will be finalized once documentation is completed for the SAT sale and its consequent acquisition of a 9.1% stake in Central Asia.

“We are delighted that the SAT group will become a major shareholder in the company and that the company will gain 100% control of Kounrad,” says Nick Clarke.

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