China shows interest in tantalum and beryllium production in Kazakhstan

Special correspondent of the "News" department
Казатомпром намерен получить собственные месторождения редкоземельных металлов
The PRC became interested in cooperation with Kazakhstan to produce tantalum and beryllium / Kursiv.Media

During a state visit to Almaty, Kazakhstan, Secretary of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Regional Committee of the CPC Ma Xingrui brought the idea of launching cooperation between local and Chinese companies to produce tantalum and beryllium, rare metals necessary for many industrial purposes, according to the website of Kazakhstan’s prime minister.

The Chinese official said that China has been pursuing modernization not only in China itself but also abroad, an ambitious plan Xi Jinping proposed several years ago. According to Xingrui, Kazakhstan can also benefit from the Chinese plan of modernization.

There are several key directions in the plan, including agriculture, energy, transportation and tourism. The Chinese side has suggested building multifunctional complexes in Almaty and Urumchi and intensifying air travel between these two cities. In turn, authorities from the city of Almaty and the Almaty, Zhetysu, Abay and East Kazakhstan regions bordering China have also proposed various ideas and projects aimed at strengthening bilateral cooperation.

Danial Akhmetov, governor of the East Kazakhstan region, highlighted that almost all nuclear fuel assemblies produced by a local nuclear fuel producer have been exported to China. Once the entity reaches its full capacity, it will earn $200 million a year.

«The two sides also discussed the potential cooperation in production on tantalum and beryllium,» the prime minister’s office said in a statement, although no details were provided.

So far, China is a key exporter of rare metals to Europe (90%), which it needs for many economic sectors, including its defense industry. On March 17, 2023, Erzhan Mukanov, head of Kazatomprom, one of the largest uranium producers in the world, said that the company is going to get a license to produce rare metals in Kazakhstan. This is necessary to guarantee that Kazatomprom subsidiaries have enough raw materials to operate.

For instance, Ulba Metallurgical Plant, a subsidiary of Kazatomprom, needs beryllium and tantalum. The entity has its tantalum production – the only of this kind in the CIS – and is already one of the biggest

producers of tantalum products in the global market. Moreover, the entity has one of three global beryllium production facilities of the total cycle. A vast share of these beryllium products is exported to China and South East Asia.

Akhmetov also revealed plans for the Ulba plant to ramp up its nuclear fuel assembly output. In December 2022, the company exported more than 30 tons of fuel to Chinese CGNPC-URC. The plant is going to reach its full capacity of 200 tons by 2024.

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