Kazakhstan Strengthens Position in Global Mineral Markets

ASTANA – Kazakhstan is well-positioned to ensure a steady supply of critical minerals, meeting the rising global demand driven by the energy transition and the electric vehicle market. According to an analytical overview by experts from the Administration of the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC), there are nine groups of goods with export potential, including those that have already been exported by Kazakhstan and promising resources such as lithium, nickel, gold, and rare-earth metals, according to the AIFC press service on July 9.

Photo credit: metals-hub.com

Currently, Kazakhstan holds competitive advantages in exporting zinc, copper, lead, silver, and aluminum. The country commands nearly 5% of the global zinc market, with reserves ranking seventh globally at 6.7 million tons as of 2023. Major export destinations for the country’s zinc include Türkiye, Russia, and China, constituting nearly 70%.

In copper, Kazakhstan’s share is nearly 4%, supported by reserves ranked 11th globally at 20 million tons. Key export partners for copper include China, Türkiye, and the United Arab Emirates. Kazakhstan’s lead market share stands at almost 3%. In 2021, the country had the eighth largest reserves in the world with two million tons and the 12th largest mine production with 40,000 tons. Global demand projections expect growth from 11.6 million tons in 2022 to 13.4 million tons by 2031.

The country also holds the third-largest reserves of silver globally, with current annual demand driven partly by the green energy sector. Under the Net Zero Emissions Scenario, green demand for silver could increase from 4,000 tons to 9,000 tons by 2030.

Kazakhstan’s global aluminum market share is under 1%. In 2023, the country ranked 11th globally in bauxite reserves with 160 million tons and tenth in mine production with 4.3 million tons. Türkiye, Italy, and Greece were the top three destinations for the country’s aluminum exports in 2022.

Kazakhstan’s export-driven metals 

According to the report, Indonesia leads globally in nickel reserves and mining production. Kazakhstan’s share of the global nickel market is minimal, approximately 0%, despite being among the top 20 countries in nickel reserves with about 1.5 million tons, equivalent to 2% of the global total. Global nickel demand is expected to increase from three million tons currently to between 3.9-5.8 million tons by 2030 and 4.8-6.5 million tons by 2050.

Similarly, Kazakhstan’s lithium sector, centered in the East Kazakhstan Region, anticipates growth with new deposits potentially expanding its role in meeting global demand forecasts ranging from 312,000 to 721,000 tons by 2030. Potential deposits might be in the Aral Sea Region and drying lakes of the Caspian lowland. In March 2024, the Korean Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources discovered a new lithium deposit with a 5.3% grade in East Kazakhstan, estimated to be worth $15.7 billion.

The country’s strategic approach also involves expanding its rare-earth metals (REM) sector, marked by a substantial increase in exports since 2020 and significant reserves concentrated in the Mangystau Region. Plans outlined in Kazakhstan’s Complex Plan on REM for 2024-2028 include substantial investments aimed at further developing this sector, potentially tapping into resources estimated to be worth trillions of dollars.

Australia leads globally in gold reserves, while China leads in gold production. In 2022, Kazakhstan ranked 14th in gold reserves with 1,000 tons and seventh in gold mine production with 120 tons. The country’s share in global gold exports remains less than 1%. Over the past decade, global annual gold demand has remained stable at around 4,400 tons.

As Kazakhstan aims not only to supply critical raw materials but also integrate itself into global supply chains, active engagement with the private sector, both domestic and foreign, remains crucial. Since 2005, a significant portion of foreign direct investment totaling $67 billion has flowed into Kazakhstan’s metal industry, which also includes critical minerals.

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