Kazakhstan - the world's third biggest major uranium supplier, after Canada and Australia - reported a 28% increase in uranium production during 2008. The increase is in line with Kazakhstan's plan to become the world's leading uranium supplier.
KazAtomProm announced that Kazakhstan's uranium production increased 28% in 2008 to 8521 tonnes, compared with 6637 tonnes in 2007. Production in 2008 was, however, 1080 tonnes less than planned.
Plans call for uranium production to reach 11,900 tonnes in 2009. KazAtomProm said that "this index is, of course, subject to change as the actual output will depend on global market conditions."
The total production volume includes the share of KazAtomProm, joint ventures of KazAtomProm and the Stepnogorsk Mining Chemical Complex, which is managed by KazAtomProm.
Kazakhstan plans to increase uranium output to some 18,000 tonnes by 2010, which would make the country the world's largest producer of uranium. Kazakhstan has set a uranium production target of 30,000 tonnes per year by 2018, the increase being due to a perceived shortfall being likely about 2014.
A new 1.2 million tonne per year Canadian-built sulfuric acid plant feeding from the Kazakhmys copper smelter in Balkhash started production at the end of June 2008, financed by a European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) loan to abate sulfur dioxide emissions from copper smelting. The start-up of the sulfuric acid plant helped reduce a national shortage of the acid, which is used in large quantities at Kazakhstan's in-situ leach (ISL) uranium mines due to relatively high levels of carbonate in the orebodies. Additional acid plants are planned in the country, which will help meet future demand.
KazAtomProm is the national atomic company set up in 1997 and owned by the government. It controls all uranium exploration and mining, as well as other nuclear-related activities, including imports and exports of nuclear materials. The company announced in 2008 that it aims to supply 30% of the world uranium by 2015. In addition, through joint ventures it also aims to supply 12% of the global uranium conversion market, 6% of the enrichment market, and 30% of the fuel fabrication market by then.
KazAtomProm has forged major strategic links with Russia, Japan and China, as well as taking a significant share in the international nuclear company Westinghouse. Canadian and French companies are involved with uranium mining and other aspects of the fuel cycle.