Kazakhstan eyes new gold refinery as output seen up

July 4. Reuters. ASTANA

By Olga Orininskaya

* Kazakhstan plans to join world’s largest gold producers
* Third refinery is needed to help meet ambitious target
* Refined gold output rises sharply in Jan-May

Kazakhstan eyes new gold refinery as output seen upKazakhstan, which aims to boost sharply its gold output, is considering building a third gold refinery this year or next, Deputy Prime Minister Aset Isekeshev said on Monday.

“We are considering ways of boosting (gold) processing, we are thinking of building a (gold) refinery,” Isekeshev, who also holds the post of minister of industry and new technologies, told reporters on the sidelines of a mining conference.

He gave no details or the cost of the project, adding that Kazakhstan could eventually invite partners to the project. He did not elaborate.

“We are now studying the project but we have very serious intentions as far as gold output is concerned,” he said. “We are now working on a preliminary feasibility study of the project.”

“If we feel it expedient, we may get down to construction work this year or next.”

Kazakhstan currently has two gold refineries – one operated by London-listed copper miner Kazakhmys and the other by Glencore-controlled Kazzinc.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has run Central Asia’s largest economy for more than two decades, last year announced plans to boost Kazakhstan’s gold output to more than 70 tonnes by 2015 in order to join the world’s largest producers of the metal.

Official data show Kazakhstan produced 13.3 tonnes of refined gold last year, a 29.5 percent increase on 2009.

Kazakhstan, a steppe nation five times the size of France populated by just 16.4 million, holds some 4 percent of world gold reserves and ranks seventh in the world in terms of reserves.

Kazakhstan, which is also the world’s No. 1 uranium producer and a major exporter of oil, industrial metals and grain, hopes its gold output will be given a boost by Vasilkovka, its largest deposit of the metal located in the north.

Vasilkovka’s $700-million gold processing plant was launched by Kazzinc in May 2010.

Official data shows Kazakhstan’s refined gold output totalled 6.8 tonnes in January-May of 2011, rising 65.4 percent over the same year-ago period.