High concentrations of gold are found in many locations around the world and the former soviet republic of Uzbekistan is one of them. This country doesn’t get a lot of attention as an economic region of the world, yet mining is critical here. Many people are surprised to hear this when each year the list of the highest gold producing countries is announced.
In 2014 Uzbekistan was responsible for mining some 102 metric tons of gold which put them #8 on the list of gold producing countries in the world. Not only are they solidly entrenched in the top 10 of this list but the country is well positioned to find even more active gold reserves in its short term future.
Gold production plays a huge part of driving the economy in Uzbekistan. Most of the gold is said to be concentrated around the area of the country known as Central Kyzyl-kum.
The Muruntau Gold Deposit
This gold deposit has made a name for itself by being the world’s largest open pit gold mine. This monstrosity measures and incredible 3.5 x 2.5 kilometers and is over 560 meters deep.
The mine is located in the Kyzyl-Kum Desert area of Uzbekistan and is thought to contain some 170 million ounces of gold. It was discovered in 1958 and active mining began in 1967.The mine is so big it uses 220 ton dump trucks to move the ore to a conveyor that takes it to the processing area that can handle over 1 million tons of gold containing ore a year.
The Best may be yet to Come
Many experts believe that underneath the ground in Uzbekistan lies one of the world’s biggest underground gold reserves. These same experts have put the figures at around some 2500 – 5300 metric tons of yet undiscovered gold. Discoveries of that magnitude would continue to push the country up the ladder of the world’s most productive gold producing countries.
One of the problems with Uzbekistan has been the slow pace of developing new gold mines. There are several mine locations that were discovered over 20 years ago that were considered favorable prospects for gold mining that are just starting to be developed now; of course some of that had to do with the price of gold and the cost of retrieving it from the ore back then.
It appears now that Uzbekistan is even more committed to its gold industry than ever, especially with the prices as high as they are now combined with a favorable long term outlook for gold pricing.
Artisanal mining is commonplace in this country, where poverty and high unemployment is rampant. There are many small illegal mining operations throughout the country exploiting small gold reserves and working ores that were abandoned back when gold prices were lower.
This is one country that is so rich in mineral wealth that there is exceptionally good potential here, if certain challenges can be overcome.
Challenges for Foreign Mining Companies
The Uzbek government has taken an active and heavy handed policy toward the foreign mining companies that develop the gold mines in the country. They even seized all the assets that belonged to one company over a tax dispute without a court hearing on the company’s behalf.
Also Read: Gold Mining in Russia
That has left many gold companies leery of investing in Uzbekistan mines at a time where this foreign investment capital is vital to their growth.
As was mentioned, if Uzbekistan can sort out its political issues with the mining companies it really looks poised to become even more of a major player in the world’s gold production hierarchy, especially if companies from India and China come onto the scene as expected.