industrial north, ecological problems, Caspian Sea, pipeline system, tungsten
Mining is the leading branch of industry in Kazakhstan. The republic contains large reserves of chromium, gold, tungsten, copper, lead, and zinc. It also possesses great quantities of coal, petroleum, and natural gas; detailed surveys in the 1990s revealed that reserves are larger than previously believed. The value of mineral extraction increased in the 1990s, contrary to other sectors of the economy. The increase is attributed to a decision to invite foreign participation in developing the country’s mineral wealth. In exchange for permission to operate Kazakh mines, the foreign companies were to invest in upgrading equipment, deal with social and ecological problems, and increase production.
Deposits of petroleum and natural gas were discovered in 1960 on the coast of the Caspian Sea, and nearly one-half of the country’s oil production comes from three large offshore fields under the sea’s northern end. Recent exploration confirmed that these deposits are extensive, which has prompted several international corporations to form joint ventures with Kazakh partners to exploit local petroleum resources. Development of oil fields in the south is slowed by an ownership dispute with neighboring states. Full use of the country’s oil and gas is hindered by the lack of integration in its pipeline system. Gas-producing areas in the west are not connected to consuming areas in the populous southeast and industrial north. The country therefore must export production through Russia and import consumption needs from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
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