In less than 15 years, a country that borders China and Russia has grown to become the world’s leading producer of uranium. According to the World Nuclear Association, Kazakhstan provides 41 percent of the global supply. (Canada is the second-largest source, at 16 percent.)
Kazakhstan’s uranium production increased almost seven fold between 2004 and 2011 from just less than 4,000 tons in 2004 to close to 20,000 tons by 2011. Its uranium mines directly employ about 9,000 people (source: NEA).
Kazakhstan exports all its uranium production, because it doesn’t have any nuclear power plants. But that may soon change. In 2002 the government adopted a resolution to develop a national nuclear power strategy, including determining the feasibility and safety of reactors. The goal is to provide the country with high-tech energy to increase prosperity.
In July, Kazakhstan joined the World Trade Organization. That was a major accomplishment for President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who launched the WTO membership effort almost 20 years ago. “We work (hard) to become a part of the global community,” he said as he signed Kazakhstan into the WTO.
Kazakhstan recently agreed to supply India with 5,000 tonnes of uranium over the next four years.
The economic potential of the mining industry hasn’t gone unnoticed by Canada. Cameco has partnered with the Kazakh government as part of a four hundred million dollar mining investment. Started seven years ago, the operations have provided financial and employment benefits for both countries, and improvements to the Kazakh mining industry’s environmental record.