Rio Tinto and Kazakh miner Tau-Ken Samruk could begin exploring for copper in northern Kazakhstan later this year, having agreed to form a joint venture in 2010.
The two companies, having signed a deal on joint prospecting and exploring for copper, gold, bauxite and iron ore last year, will form a separate joint venture for copper exploration in the northerly Kostanai region, Tau-Ken chief executive Bolat Svyatov said on Wednesday.
Tau-Ken, the mining arm of sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna, was only set up in 2009 but already has deals in place with the elite of the mining world, having also signed a contract with Brazilian miner Vale in the summer of 2010 for copper and gold exploration.
The firm was established as a holding company to manage the government’s stakes in the country's mining companies and improve the efficiency and standards of the sector. The Kazakh authorities hold an 11.65 per cent stake in Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation and state-owned entities control 26 per cent of Kazakhmys.
Kazakhstan, famous for being the world’s largest uranium producer, is also a big hitter in the metals. It is has the world’s eleventh largest copper reserves, eighth largest lead supplies, seventh largest zinc reserves and is third largest in titanium.
The country’s copper production is estimated to be around 400,000 metric tons in 2010, according to the US Geological Survey, a number big enough to attract the world’s leading copper players, especially with the prospect of major discoveries in the conventional copper producing regions of Latin America continuing to diminish.
China's long arm touches Kazakh ENRC - FT Tilt
Copper miner, commodities trader eye Hong Kong listing - FT Tilt