India, Kazakhstan Explore Mining, Energy Projects in Advance of Indian PM’s Visit

ASTANA – India and Kazakhstan are looking at a variety of mining, mineral and oil and gas projects, paving the way for bilateral agreements to be signed during Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi’s visit to the country early in July.

An inter-ministerial working group has been established among the Coal, Steel and Mines Ministries and coordinating with the External Affairs Ministry and the prime minister’s office, Mining Weekly reported on June 18. The joint projects taking shape may include iron ore, coal and potash exploration, as well as joint ventures with government support to either expand existing cooperative endeavours or set up new projects at known mineral assets. It is expected that at least two or three agreements on coal and potash, among other agreements, will be signed, the report said. India currently imports about 5 million tonnes of potash a year, the report said.

India’s government-owned National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) Limited is expected to lead India’s side of the joint ventures, according to Mining Weekly.

A Kazakh delegation led by Minister of Investment and Development of Kazakhstan Asset Issekeshev met with Union Minister of Steel and Mines Narendra Singh Tomar on June 15, ahead of the June 17 meeting of the India-Kazakhstan Inter-governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technical, Industrial and Cultural Cooperation. “This government is proactive to collaborate with governments and industries abroad to foster mutual growth and industrial development, and we look forward to further economic partnership with Kazakhstan,” Tomar said, according to a report by Kitco News on June 15.

Two further announcements were made following the inter-governmental commission meeting, on investment in exploration and transit.

On June 17, Udaipur Kiran reported that ONGC Videsh Limited, a branch of the state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation of India (ONGC) would invest $400 million in exploration activities in Kazakhstan. The money will be used to support exploration in India’s Satpayev block in Kazakhstan’s oil-rich North Caspian region, ONGC Videsh Managing Director Narendra Kumar Verma said.

“While we have a 25 percent stake in the block, we will be funding the entire exploration activities. The company has already invested $150 million in the block. We have also committed to invest up to $400 million over there,” Verma said, according to the report. It will also pay $80 million to KazMunayGas as a one-time assignment fee. Exploratory drilling is expected to begin next month.

OVL paid $13 million as a signing amount for a 25 percent stake in Satpayev in 2011.

The countries are also looking at possibilities for transporting raw materials. Also on June 17, Oil Minister of India Dharmendra Pradhan announced that the country would conduct a feasibility study on importing crude oil and gas from Kazakhstan either through a pipeline or as liquid natural gas in ships. Hydrocarbons could be brought first to Iran via the Caspian Sea and transported across the country through a pipeline.

“With the opening of the rail link between Iran-Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, we will explore the possibility of this route being developed as a linked corridor to the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC),” Pradhan said after the commission meeting.

A Joint Working Group is to be established to find transport and logistics linkages.

‘We also reviewed developments in trade and investment. It was decided that we would work together within the framework of the Joint Study group to consider the feasibility of a comprehensive economic partnership agreement between India and the Eurasian Economic Union, of which Kazakhstan is a member,” Pradhan said.