NUR-SULTAN – Kazakhstan has huge potential in its mining industry sector and Australian companies are eager to help unlock it, said Austmine Director for International Business Robert Trzebski in an interview to The Astana Times.
“We work with mining companies around the world and our mission is to connect our member companies with opportunities around the world,” said Trzebski.
Austmine has been a leading industry body in Australia for the mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sector providing world-leading mining expertise and technological prowess. It also brings automation and technology to boost productivity, and enhance safety.
Trzebski said the mining industry has evolved over the years with more international companies growing their presence in the country’s market.
“Twelve years ago, we recognized that Kazakhstan, among some other markets, is a very promising market for the mining industry with lots of new projects. Kazakhstan is obviously leading in many areas, uranium, ferrochromium and a large producer of other basic commodities. So we said we should start developing a relationship with Kazakhstan, its mining industry and mining companies, authorities and other stakeholders. In 2009, we took the very first delegation from Australia to Kazakhstan to attend the exhibition in Almaty which used to be called Mining World Central Asia and we had a small Australian pavilion that would grow every year. We kept the tradition and were coming to Kazakhstan every year except this year,” said Trzebski.
Kazakhstan boasts abundant resources that position the country well on a global mining scene. Central Asia’s largest economy has been the top uranium producer in the world, ranks first in chromite ore reserves and leads in its reserves of lead, zinc, and iron ore.
Abundance in resources and the subsequent project opportunities are among the factors that encourage Australian companies to explore the market.
The country’s mining industry is dominated by large national companies, such as KazMinerals (former Kazakhmys), KazZinc, Eurasian Resources Group, Tau-Ken Samruk and Kazatomprom, as well as leading international mining companies, such as RioTinto, BASF, Endress+Hauser, ArcelorMittal, and Uranium One.
Austmine has been working closely with KazMinerals, KazZinc, and ERG, among other partners.
“Many of the companies we used to work with, we see them becoming more competitive. They need to be competitive if they want to make the mining industry sustainable in Kazakhstan, modernize equipment and services and keep pace with the modernization of mining technologies, and digital automation,” he said.
Trzebski noted that companies now have a “better perception of why they should use modern technologies and services.”
He also commended the government’s efforts to bring the country’s industry closer to international standards and gear up its modernization efforts.
In 2016, Kazakhstan became a member of the Committee for Mineral Reserves International Standards (CRIRSCO) aimed at bringing transparency and good practices in reporting on mineral deposits and exploration activities. The CRIRSCO membership was part of the national 100 Concrete Steps initiative announced by Kazakhstan’s First President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
In December 2017, Kazakhstan also adopted a new code on subsoil use that incorporated Western Australia’s standards. The new document introduced simplified subsoil use right procedures based on Australia’s ‘first come, first served’ licensing model, ensured open access to geological data and its digitization, as well as a new simplified procedure for providing subsoil use rights, establishing and classifying mineral resources.
“The Kazakh industry has become more competitive on the international scene growing their attractiveness for foreign investors,” he said, noting a stable political landscape as another factor positively affecting the investment climate in the country.
“We, Australian supplier companies, see opportunities in Kazakhstan because of the magnitude and scale of projects being developed, such as Aktogay (large scale open pit mine located in the East Kazakhstan Region and developed by KazMinerals), Bozshakol (large scale open-pit copper mine in the Pavlodar Region developed by KazMinerals), and Koksay (copper mine development project in southeastern Kazakhstan). These are huge projects, very modern and they provide opportunities for suppliers,” he said.
Austmine is also ready to provide expertise and training to Kazakh companies, he added.
“We see positive changes happening. This is created by political stability. What is challenging quite often is transportation, because Kazakhstan is landlocked and we also saw competition coming from China, Russia and neighboring countries next to the Kazakh market. Things improve much faster in Kazakhstan than in many other places,” he said.
In October this year, Austmine in partnership with the Kazakh Embassy in Singapore and Kazakhstan’s Consulate General in Sydney organized a webinar focusing on the country’s current mining opportunities, prospects for cooperation and entry by Australian companies into the market.
The online event gathered more than 50 participants from 30 Australian mining service and technology companies. Similar sessions exploiting the Kazakh mining industry are already planned with the next event set for early 2021.