Soviet geologists once boasted that Kazakstan was capable of exporting the entire Periodic Table of Elements. During the Soviet period, Kazakstan supplied about 7 percent of the union's gold, or about twenty-four tons per year. Since independence, the republic has attracted large foreign partners to develop existing or new mines. President Nazarbayev announced intentions to increase annual gold production to fifty or sixty tons by 1995 or 1996.
In 1989 the mines of Kazakstan yielded 23.8 million tons of iron ore and 151,900 tons of manganese. The republic also possesses deposits of uranium, chrome, titanium, nickel, wolfram, silver, molybdenum, bauxite, and copper. Major phosphate mines feed fertilizer plants in the southern city of Zhambyl. Three major coal fields--Torghay, Qaraghandy, and Ekibastuz--produced 140 million tons of hard coal in 1991, but by 1994 Kazakstan's national total had dropped to 104 million tons.
In the mid-1990s, all minerals in Kazakstan belonged to the republic. Authority for decisions concerning their development was delegated to the prime minister, provided that these decisions were consistent with laws on natural resource development. The fundamental law "On Natural Resources and the Development of Mineral Resources" was passed in May 1992, but its treatment of foreign development of minerals is limited to two brief paragraphs stipulating that foreign development be conducted in accordance with international and national law.
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