Survey of Energy Resources 2007
Uranium Country Notes
Uranium exploration commenced in 1948 and since then a large number of ore deposits have been located, initially in the districts of Pribalkhash (in southeastern Kazakhstan), Kokchetau in the north of the republic, and Pricaspian near the Caspian Sea. Since 1970 extensive low-cost resources have been discovered in the Chu-Sarysu and Syr-Darya basins in south-central Kazakhstan.
Production started in 1953, initial output being processed in Kyrgyzstan. Production centres in Kazakhstan were started up by the Tselinny Mining and Processing Company in 1958 (based on underground-mined ore) and by the Kaskor Company in 1959 (based on open-pit mining). Economic pressures forced the closure of the Kaskor plant in 1993 and of the Tselinny plant in 1995. Almost all subsequent uranium production has utilised ISL technology.
At the beginning of 2005 there were six ISL production centres in operation in Kazakhstan, with an aggregate production capacity of 4 700 tU/yr, together with one production centre linked with the Vostok underground mine, with a capacity of 1 250 tU/yr. Total output of uranium in 2005 was 4 357 tonnes, and cumulative national production now exceeds 32 700 tonnes. Provisional data show uranium production rising to 5 279 tonnes in 2006, and there are plans to raise it by over 30% to 6 937 tU in 2007.
Kazakhstan was the 3rd largest producer in 2005, but its RAR of 378 290 tonnes (recoverable at up to US$ 80/kg) put it in a much higher ranking - second only to Australia - and give it a 14.3% share in global resources at that cost level. In addition, there are well over 400 000 tonnes of other identified resources: 135 607 tonnes of other RAR (at US$ 80-130/kgU) and 302 000 tonnes of IR recoverable at costs of less than US$ 130/kgU.
Undiscovered resources (in situ) recoverable at costs below US$ 130/kgU are also massive: 310 000 tonnes of PR and 500 000 tonnes of SR.
The state entity KazAtomProm plans to increase Kazakhstan's uranium production to 15 000 tU/yr by 2010, aiming to make it the world's largest producer. A number of new ISL facilities will be constructed, including several based on joint ventures with foreign corporations. A joint venture (APPAK LLP) with Sumitomo Corp. and Kansai Electric Power Company to construct and operate a mine at West Mynkuduk was established in January 2006. In June, commercial operations commenced at the KATCO joint venture with AREVA, whilst in December the Zarechnoye joint venture with Russia produced its first uranium. Other new mines are planned.