One of the main tasks entrusted to Kazakhmys Barlau Exploration Company is replenishment of Kazakhmys resources base. Modern technologies and methods of geological exploration enable the company to implement large-scale projects aimed to expand its resource base. In an interview with The Eurasian Magazine, Galym Nurzhanov, General Director of Kazakhmys Barlau LLC, described ways and technologies used for reproduction of Kazakhmys mineral resources base.
- Galym Zhumabayevich, Kazakhmys Barlau establishment in the structure of the largest copper producer is aimed at replenishing the mineral resources base of Kazakhmys Corporation in the key areas of operation. How does the company address this task?
Kazakhmys Barlau approach to the implementation of exploration projects is the same as in business: first of all, we consider new perspective sites from the point of view of their efficiency for the mining and metallurgical sector. At the same time, exploration of high-potential sites is justified by modern scientific concepts of geological structures.
First of all, we comprehensively analyze the collected historical data using a wide range of modern techniques and technologies used in interpretation of geological and geophysical data and geological objects modeling. We are also working on the company’s seismic data interpretation capabilities.
I would like to note that when re-interpreting the previous historical data we can discover prospective and promising sites which could be missed before, and figure out and design appropriate geological and exploration operations for their comprehensive analysis.
We do not re-invent the wheel; we just do our best to use the collected and newly acquired information using the latest scientific and engineering means.
At all stages of our activities, from preparation to implementation of exploration projects, we pay special attention to cooperating with research and production organisations from neighboring countries and beyond. For example, in 2020 we started cooperating with Central Research Institute for Geological Prospecting for Base and Precious Metals, Moscow, with the aim to address geological and methodological issues and establish a research basis for forecasting, prospecting, evaluation and exploration of deposits.
In order to get precise laboratory analytics we use globally recognized laboratories such as ALS and SGS.
Currently, Kazakhmys Barlau is carrying out comprehensive geological exploration at 15 fifteen invested exploration sites located in Kazakhmys Holding mining areas concentrated in Karaganda region and newly developed Kostanay region.
We comprehensively review geological and production data at Kazakhmys deposits with the aim of further exploration of flanks and deep horizons using modern equipment and geological exploration technologies, This enables to increase the Holding’s mineral resources base in, primarily, single-industry towns of Satpayev, Balkhash and Zhezkazgan.
In addition, in 2021 we started investigating the feasibility and possibility of re-mining of man-made mineral formations of tailings and tailings storage facilities, since it is no secret that the technologies used for ore processing in the past did not always allow for complete extraction of major and minor minerals, including rare and precious metals accumulated in the mining and metallurgical wastes. Today, however, such additional extraction technologies are in-place, and Kazakhmys Barlau has launched auditing of all Kazakhmys man-made mineral formations to assess the feasibility of their exploration and mining.
In general, investments for geological exploration in 2021 amount to about 9 billion tenge which is 1.5 times more than it was last year. This is not the limit, since our goal is to meet the demand of existing mining and metallurgical facilities in quality minerals and extend life of our facilities and single-industry towns for at least 50-70 years.
- Your company has launched a big exploration project in Zhezkazgan, i.e. Zhezkazgan ore district exploration. In your opinion, what are the prospects for the revival of the largest copper deposit in Kazakhstan?
Zhezkazgan region’s development started back in the 1920s. It was a labour-intensive and lengthy process. Zhezkazgan deposit became one of the flagships of the USSR mineral and raw material complex. The name of the great scientist Kanysh Satpayev who believed that Zhezkazgan region was the richest copper field is closely connected with the discovery and development of the copper giant.
However, after the main ore bearing horizons had been discovered and Zhezkazgan deposit operation commenced, mining and exploration works in Zhezkazgan ore region were carried out in separate ore manifestations from time to time. Potential exploration of copper and silver deposits at deep horizons of Zhezkazgan deposit discovered by M.K. Satpayeva, a daughter of the great geologist Kanysh Satpayev, is still an open question.
Since the establishment of our company, we have started this large scale project, a comprehensive follow-up study of the Zhezkazgan ore district. A Forecasting and Audit Department was established with the aim to review all available geological materials, re-interpret geological and geophysical data and re-estimate the prospects.
Last year’s work resulted in recommendations for prospecting on the flanks and deep horizons of Zhezkazgan, Zhaman-Aybat, and Zhilandy group deposits.
As for the expected volume of reserves and resources, we hope to discover the Second Zhezkazgan using new technologies, state-of-art processing facilities and high-precision prospecting exploration, or at least get an increase in reserves in the volume of the deposit, as in the case of the known Itauyz deposit.
- What activities are scheduled this year to explore the Zhezkazgan region and what amount of investment is envisaged for this purpose?
This year we are launching the first stage of the project under the Programme of Zhezkazgan Ore District Integrated Exploration. For this purpose, about two billion tenge are allocated. We developed a Programme which consists of comprehensive advanced geological and geophysical study. This includes remote sensing, airborne geophysical operations using innovative methods, high-precision gravity, seismic and electrical surveys, geochemical studies and drilling on flanks and deep horizons of Zhezkazgan deposit and Zhilandy group of deposits.
We put on the list to create a reference geological and geophysical model for exploration of the Zhezkazgan deposit and Zhezkazgan ore district in order to assess prospects of the Zhezkazgan ore district completely.
This work is labour and time consuming: the results of the previous years of exploration will be combined into a single database and supplemented with modern exploration data and after that a geological and geophysical model of the Zhezkazgan ore district will be created. This model will be used as a reference model in this type of deposit exploration. Finally, we will have to make a final decision about the prospects of the Zhezkazgan ore district.
- Implementation of large-scale exploration projects requires an efficient industrial infrastructure. What are the company’s plans for expanding production capacity?
Today, the company’s industrial sites are located in two cities of Kazakhstan: Karaganda and Zhezkazgan. These facilities enable us to arrange the entire production cycle in these regions.
Our company is relatively young, but for today, we already have a high-tech and reliable fleet of mining and drilling equipment and vehicles. We are planning to expand and replenish the fleet based on the geological tasks assigned. In December 2020 we purchased four drilling rigs and 33 units of specialized and auxiliary vehicles for geological prospecting projects.
The company’s geological exploration service is provided with special mobile wagons for core documentation and office trucks with satellite communications for on-site cameral works.
We carry out maintenance and repair of worn-out inherited production equipment to increase performance of our main assets. We have overhauled 3 drilling rigs with more than 12 years of service life, and are planning to restore mobile field camps.
In my opinion, the major achievement of our company is the last year’s repurchasing of expedition facilities of the former Zhezkazgangeologiya JSC. This is the site of once famous and oldest USSR geological enterprise, Dzhezkazgan Complex Geological Exploration Expedition, which in fact has a century-long history of significant geological discoveries and achievements. And today we have the opportunity to restore and revive it.
Our goal is to create Kazakhmys Barlau Geological Cluster based on this site. When designing the cluster, we used all up-to-date and best practices in the field of construction and tooling for geological companies, core storage facilities and analytical laboratories. Speaking of the latter, we scheduled construction of a certified laboratory at the site involving SGS, a Swiss company, the world leader in analytical studies.
- Your company aims to become a leader in advanced exploration technologies in Kazakhstan. Please, tell us about the company’s major digital projects?
From the very beginning, we relied on the technologies of digital collection, storage and processing of geological exploration data. Currently, Kazakhmys Barlau is actively introducing electronic geological documentation, digitalization of geological materials and creation of digital databases of geological exploration data, electronic mapping and modeling, operational communication and information transfer tools.
Our exploration sites are equipped with satellite communications which enables us to promptly exchange information on the progress of exploration. Our geologists can send materials from the field to the central office and receive feedback any time. Indeed, it is no secret that when making project designs, certain flexibility is required, first and foremost during exploration, as we often have to respond to new geological data and revise projects almost immediately.
Quality of exploration depends on prompt exchange of exploration data, since project managers are able to evaluate and modify the operations of field geologists online.
Satellite communications are always important: it is impossible to imagine the operation of new technologies without quality communications.
Technical capabilities of our company enable us to carry out exploration all year round, regardless of the season, although many other exploration companies have their operations planned depending on a season and weather conditions.
- Stock exchanges and international banks trust mining and exploration companies only if their operations and reporting systems meet international standards. Does the transition to new reporting standards influence the operation of Kazakhmys Barlau?
We understand the importance of transition to international standards and its opportunities, and therefore our company is completely prepared to work with the new reporting system.
In this area, we have developed and approved our own standards in accordance with international standards which cover all types of our exploration work. In addition, for carrying out independent QA/QC at our investment projects, we cooperate with competent experts. This practice complies with all international standards for exploration quality control and assurance.
- Do you have problems with human resources? How does the company arrange its human resources process?
For exploration companies, it is not enough to have good production capacities in order to have a strong market position. Human resources are always very important. Nowadays, there is indeed a shortage of highly qualified personnel, and there are many factors involved: the level of university training of young specialists has decreased and the cooperation between production and scientific or educational institutions has disappeared or weakened.
Our staff includes over 300 employees of mining, geological, technical and blue-collar jobs. This is a great resource for achieving our goals and a great responsibility for me as a manager. We help our employees develop and improve their skills by organizing training courses and seminars. We also promote geological professions among students by organising geology clubs in secondary schools.
We closely cooperate with Kazakhstani universities and colleges, and invite students for internships. The best students are enrolled in our personnel reserve, and after they graduate, they are offered jobs. I believe this is a unique opportunity for young professionals to start their professional careers.