Kazakhstan is bracing to revive its tungsten mining industry with a helping hand from China.
Almas Aydarov, deputy governor of the Karaganda region, on January 17 told business news website Atameken Business that Xiamen Tungsten, which is based in China’s southeastern Fujian province, will spend $750 million on building infrastructure to mine and process the rare metal.
The start of operations is slated for 2023 and the main buyers of the product will be in China, which currently accounts for 60 percent of the global tungsten consumption. Other potential markets include the United States, Germany and France.
Tungsten is commonly used as an alloy with other metals to give them additional strength. Other applications are as components in light bulbs and other equipment in which its high heat-resistant properties are useful.
A preliminary agreement on the project was reached in November, when Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev was visiting China.
Aydarov said Xiamen Tungsten intends to buy out Tau-Ken Samruk, the company that holds the tungsten concessions, from the Samruk-Kazyna sovereign fund.
A technical survey carried out by Xiamen Tungsten found that one of the sites that will be developed — Upper Kayrakty — is the second-largest deposit of tungsten in the world. The field was first unearthed in Soviet times, but development was halted in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.
According to Aydarov, this undertaking will put Kazakhstan in a position to produce up to 12,500 tons of tungsten annually and provide work for 2,000 people.
Almaz Kumenov is an Almaty-based journalist.
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