Ruthless repressions in Kazakhstan, uranium chest for Russia and China


Ruthless repressions in Kazakhstan, uranium chest for Russia and China

Geopolitical relations and market trends are spies of the centrality in the supplies of materials and minerals essential for energy and digital transition.

The first effect was seen on the price of uranium, the second on that of oil. The situation in Kazakhstan, according to the government authorities, seems to be moving towards a gradual return to normality after the decision to violently suppress the protests, without hesitation in the indiscriminate use of force even at the cost of opening fire on the crowd. But the clashes in recent days have highlighted the strategic importance of some supplies in which the country led by President Tokaev It is not surprising that the presidents of the two most important countries that geographically embrace Kazakhstan immediately worked on the political level, and in the case of Russia also on the military one, to ensure a rapid return to stability. In his umpteenth address to the nation, Tokaev

He rated the use of “strong” measures by the Kazakh government to quell the unrest as “highly responsible”. China, he added, is " willing to offer the help Kazakhstan needs to overcome the current difficulties”. Moscow has instead sent, within the framework of the Csto (the “Nato” of the E Urss USSR) about 2500 soldiers, to which were added 500 men from Belarus, in addition to the military of Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan which on Friday approved the sending of 150 soldiers. The allied military forces are used, according to local media, to protect strategic sites, and not to participate in the “anti-terrorist” operations of the Kazakh forces.

Such a massive and timely intervention in support of the Toka presidenza Market trends, in this sense, are another indicator of Kazakhstan's centrality in the supply of critical materials and minerals essential for both the energy and digital transition. But one element dominates all the others: uranium futures rose to $ 47 per pound to their highest in more than a month on fears of supply disruptions and the prospect of higher demand. In percentage terms, the increase in quotations touched 7.5% in the last week. The same uptrend for oil, with Theti I at $ 80.06 per barrel up 0.76%, while Brent 0.80% at $ 82.65. These increases are all in all limited because the general belief is that the crisis is not destined to last long and because the clashes are far from the most delicate production places in Kazakhstan.

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The strategic importance of some supplies remains as a background to the tensions that have been registered in the country in recent days, and in particular in the center of Almat. The country is the leader in the production of uranium, 40% globally, half of which is destined for the most important market, the Chinese one. It houses the undisputed leader in the sector, Kazatompron, which alone controls 24% of world production, while the remaining share is headed byoint Kazatompron, listed on the London Stock Exchange and Astana International ech It manages uranium reserves of 300 thousand tons and manages to produce about 13 thousand per year (the peak in 2016 with 23 thousand tons), in addition to other 200 thousand tons, if not more, having the right of precedence on deposits still to be explored, as a state company.

Demand for Uranium

The demand for uranium is expected to grow by an average of 1.5% per year until 2030 if not beyond, also taking into account the will of European and North American countries to slowly free themselves from the production of nuclear energy in which uranium is, as is known, indispensable. The failure to comply with the demands of the Old Continent - where for example Germany has shut down three reactors and plans to shut down the last three still active by 2022, while the Hunterston B nuclear unit in Scotland emitted the last fumes today at noon - will be largely offset by China, which represents about half of the 95 reactors estimated to be built in the world over the next decade, and then by Russia and India.

Moreover, the Kazakh ability to establish itself as a world leader in the extraction and supply of uranium also depends on its particular geological “luck”: all mines are in fact exploitable through leaching - or recovery - in situ (ISR), an Extraction mode that allows to greatly reduce costs.

That is why Beijing is watching closely the unrest in Kazakhstan. The production sites were obviously not affected but the main export route passes through the region of Almat. And concerns among industrialists in the people's Republic are not only about uranium but also natural gas: between January and November 2021, Chinese companies in business with the Central Asian country imported four million tons of gas from Kazakhstan through the China-Central Asia Pipeline.

Today, more than 20% of Kazakh exports go to China, followed by Russia and Germany with 8% of the total. Kazakh mineral wealth contributes 20% of its gross domestic product and 19% of its ePort And it is not just reduced to uranium, which, however Strategic, has a limited reference market. Kazakhstan is the fourth global producer of copper. But the list of Kazakh mining treasure is long: it is estimated that the subsoil “hides” 30% of the world's reserves of chromium, indispensable in metal alloys, one above all stainless steel. And then 25% manganese, 10% iron ore, 13% lead and zinc. Not to mention Gold: estimates speak of the ninth largest proven reserve in the world.

It is then a reservoir of vanadium, bismuth, fluorine, bauite Kazakhstan, therefore, for its mineral wealth, can easily compete with Canada, Australia, Russia and other countries in the supplies of goods that have become the center of gravity of geopolitical tensions with hardly predictable implications, as Afghanistan teaches. However, just like Afghanistan, it pays for a serious infrastructural backwardness, poorly developed transport routes, poorly connected sites and mines, a regulatory environment still not conducive to productive activities, knowledge and skills still not up to the treasure it holds.

Michael Zippo

Sources: HuffPost

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