SO METAL

Kazakhstan 2015 | MINING & ENERGY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Tengiz Bolturuk, CEO and President of Syrymbet Mining Company, on the intricacies of the tin market, the benefits of international partnerships, and bureaucratic impediments to development.

Tengiz Bolturuk
BIOGRAPHY
Tengiz Bolturuk graduated from Clausthal University of Technology, Germany with a M.Sc. in Metallurgy and is a Licensed Canadian Professional Engineer. He has participated in projects worldwide including in Canada, the US, Peru, Iran, Mongolia, China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ghana, and South Africa with leading international firms such as Jacobs/Aker Solutions, Tetra Tech, Barrick Gold, Celtic Resources, Cameco Gold, and FSU mining companies in different process and project management positions. His professional expertise is in mining engineering and operation, project management, mining business improvement consulting, process plants design, mine site construction, start-up and commissioning. He joined Lancaster Group as the Chief Operating Officer of JSC Syrymbet in 2012.

What are the geological and technical specifies of Syrymbet's tin deposit?

Regardless of location, we are able to mine year round. Even in the northern most part of Russia, most mines are working all year to produce metal concentrate. With a well-developed infrastructure, we have year round access to mines and power, and our technologies and equipment are housed in closed buildings to avoid issues with freezing temperatures. The deposit itself has a polymetallic nature, and during the latest test work at SGS Canada, we discovered additional recoverable metals such as copper and tungsten fluoride, which have increased the value of this project. We are now completing the estimation of these elements. Although tin is the main production target, we will attempt to produce not just tin concentrate, but we think we will also be able to produce tin ingots or fumes down the line.

Syrymbet is cooperating with world-renowned international partners. What results have been achieved through these partnerships?

Each mining project is based on the geology. In order to close gaps in the geology, we had to do drilling and resource estimations according to international standards. We invited CSA Global, and Australian consulting company to produce a JORC compliant report. Last year we signed a contract with AMEC, one of the top ten engineering companies in the world who now function as our general contractor and are conducting the pre-feasibility study. We have AMC consultants from Australia working on the mine design and in the ore reserve estimation. Golder Associates and TERRA Environmental Consultants are making international environmental and social impact assessments. In the last three years we have worked on geology, mining, hydrogeology, rock mechanics, metallurgical studies, and environmental studies. In working with reputable companies, our project has attained good quality reports, and we have closed historical gaps in geology and technology. We want to make this project attractive and transparent, and make it a benchmark for mining international standard projects in Kazakhstan.

Which markets is Syrymbet looking at for off-take agreements in the future?

It is important to explain that 60% of tin is used as a solder. The biggest tin consumers are Asia, the US, Europe, Japan, and South Korea. Every electronic producer is chasing after tin solder. In the mid-1990s when tin prices plummeted, the industry collapsed, and nearly all tin producers in the former Soviet Union went bankrupt. Only one tin smelter still exists in Novosibirsk, but it does not have a supply, and works at 10% of its historical capacity. Therefore, it is important to cover this gap in the region. We secured off-take agreements with the Novosibirsk smelter plant. In China for example, demand is still high, and we are working to put together a low-cost tin operation, and introduce export aspects that make tin from Kazakhstan attractive.

What steps need to be taken in order to attract more investors to the country's mining industry?

There are deterrents to the mining industry here, as there are with most places. There are unique bureaucratic procedures in Kazakhstan. For example, we have a fairly complicated continuous bidding process that happens in two stages that can be costly and time-consuming. It is the country's goal to invite in the world's best firms, so that we can make advancements, but the bidding process slows investments and impacts our project directly. Mining regulations and licensing issues can also deter investment. We hope to see processes simplified. Operating costs are also rising rapidly. Despite these challenges, we are hopeful after President Nazarbayev's latest announcement that licensing procedures and mining legislations and formal requirements for the project execution will be simplified and the situation will improve in the mining sector.