The potential of economic return of geological resources can be substantially raised in Kazakhstan.
Mining, metallurgy is the initial link of the heavy industry. Society growth is directly related to the use of products from this industry.
Since the middle of the XVIII century, a number of high-quality metals have been used in industry, which allowed the production of machines and tools for various purposes. The formation of large-scale machine production in all economy sectors, especially in industry, has created the conditions for making a large range of previously unknown products. All branches of the economy, including construction, energy, agricultural, light, food and others, are developing on the basis of heavy industry (mining, metallurgy, machine tools and machine building).
Since the mid-twentieth century, the modern scientific and technical revolution began, which had a strong impact on the further course of industrial development. There were conditions for moving to the use of high technologies as well as their corresponding technical means.
Complex mechanization and automation of production processes, intensive use of information technologies in the management of these processes began to be introduced. The role of fundamental science in transforming the production base has increased dramatically. The latest knowledge-intensive industries were formed as well. Science has become a real productive force.
Because of self-development, the Third industrial revolution at the beginning of the XXI century smoothly passed into the Fourth that provides deeper quantitative and qualitative changes in the field of science and production. At the same time, Industry 4.0 is characterized by the integration of advanced technologies and the merger of the physical, digital and biological spheres.
Almost every physical object involved in the production process is equipped with a variety of detectors and sensors that generate a huge flow of information every second. Processing and analyzing large amounts of data (Big Data) is becoming one of the main elements that ensure the functioning of Industry 4.0.
MMC acts as a natural material and technical base for scientific-technical progress and society growth as a whole, and scientific-technical progress, in turn, is a driver of innovation in all economy sectors, including the mining and metallurgical industry.
In the world of innovative and high technologies such rare and rare-earth metals as indium, scandium, rhenium, palladium, osmium, lutetium, zirconium, selenium, tellurium, cobalt, cadmium and others are widely used. They are mostly contained in the composition of ferrous, non-ferrous, and precious metal ores, in uranium, coal and oil.
Extracting them from basic raw materials to meet the needs of new technologies in high-tech metals and alloys further actualizes the problem of integrated and full use of minerals. Effective solution of this two-pronged task becomes the main priority for the mining and metallurgical industry of Kazakhstan.
The main feature of solid minerals deposits in Kazakhstan is their multi-component nature. For instance, in addition to precious metals, polymetallic deposits contain up to 20 of the most important rare elements, including osmium and thallium. The republic has successfully mastered the technologies for extracting them from copper, lead, zinc and other concentrates, as well as from uranium ore, coal and oil.
Scientific foundations and pioneer technologies for obtaining rare and rare-earth elements from complex ore raw materials in Kazakhstan were created under the leadership of the outstanding scientist, academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences Kanysh Satpayev.
The next generations of scientists from the Kazakh National Research Technical University named after K. Satpayev, RSE " National center for complex processing of mineral raw materials of the Republic of Kazakhstan" together with the manufacturers created new technologies for mining and processing of multicomponent ores.
Due to the given technological base the republic is the largest producer of rhenium (2nd-3rd place in the world), beryllium (1st-4th place), titanium sponge (second place), tantalum, niobium, gallium, technical thallium (third place), uranium (first place).
Despite the success achieved, most mining and metallurgical enterprises of Kazakhstan on a medium scale often do not extract precious useful components accompanying the profile metals (platinum, gold, palladium, rhenium, osmium, thallium, etc.) and go to dumps of enrichment and metallurgical productions.
At the enterprises where they are produced, their extraction rate from ore raw materials is very low. This situation is because, when approving geological reserves, associated useful components are not often evaluated and are not put on the balance sheet.
Accordingly, subsurface users are not required to extract them during the operation of the deposits.
Simultaneously, the advanced experience of large enterprises of Kazakhstan's MMC and theoretical research show that due to the development and implementation of innovative technologies and technical means, the current level of recovery of noble and rare metals can be raised by 2-2.5 times, and profile metals - by 1.5 times.
Concurrently, the total income from the sale of associated noble and rare metals already exceeds the income from profile metals (copper, molybdenum) in 9.35 times!
The current amount of revenues from the sale of Kazakhstan MMC's products for complex processing of ores can be provided by production volumes 8-10 times lower than at present. In other words, the existing potential for economic benefits of georesources can be raised substantially.
For a large-scale implementation of measures to increase the complexity of mineral raw materials use at the legislative and state level, it is necessary to solve the issue related to the need to extract all the accompanying, especially high-value useful components from ore raw materials, demand for which is increasing many times due to the needs of high technology. This will ensure the production of rare, rare-earth metals in volumes sufficient for Kazakhstan to be able to take a worthy place in the world REM market – a fundamental component of high technologies.
The mining and metallurgical complex currently has a great influence on the formation of macroeconomic indicators of the country. The industry accounts for 13% of GDP, 23% of total industrial production, 48% of manufacturing output and 20% of the country's exports.
There is a large-scale diversification of the industry: obtaining products of higher processing, expanding its range, including new types of structural, composite and other materials. In particular, at the enterprises of “Kazakhmys” Corporation and “Kazzinc” LLP production of copper wire rod, foil, alloys and metal products has been established. JSC "ArcelorMittal Temirtau" has increased the production of steel, flat, galvanized steel, tinplate and tinned sheet metal. SSMPPA began to produce grinding bodies, rolled products for various purposes.
Within the framework of Industrialization Map projects, products that were not previously made in Kazakhstan were developed, for example, aluminum wire rod at “Kazenergokabel” JSC, steel panel radiators at “Kazterm” LLP, collective concentrate of rare-earth metals at “SARECO” JV LLP, seamless pipes at “KSP Steel” LLP.
Production of high-quality raw materials for steelmaking (granulated cast iron and hot briquetted iron) has been established. Manufacturing the new types of steel (pipe, corrosion-resistant, rail and automobile) has been developed as well.
In the context of the global economic crisis and coronavirus spread, MMC employees ensure the stable functioning of the industry; maintain its leading role in the innovative development of the country, implementing the resource and innovation strategy. According to experts, the mining and metallurgical complex is successfully developing domestic high-tech production, development and mastering of new high-conversion technologies.
According to the Institute of Economics of the Committee of Science of the MES RK, the undisputed leader of digitalization in the country is MMC (13 large enterprises of the extractive industry are planning to implement 58 major projects with a total investment of 315, 4 billion tenge (20 of them have already been successfully completed).
Author: Bayan Rakishev, academician of NAS RK,
Honoured Worker of the Republic of Kazakhstan,
Honoured Miner of the Republic of Kazakhstan