Kazakhstan prepares to launch country’s first TiO2 project

By IM Staff
Published: Thursday, 15 December 2016

The $700m project is expected to launch in 2017 following delays owing to a lack of investment. Supply will target Kazakhstan's domestic market.

By Vladislav Vorotnikov

Kazakhstan-based industrial materials company TOC Tenir-Logistic is planning to launch a titanium dioxide (TiO2) project next year, the first of its kind in the Central Asian country. The TiO2 plant will be fed with ore from the Tymlay titan-magnetite deposit in Zhambyl Oblast, in southern Kazakhstan. 

Tenir-Logistic has been exploring the deposit since 2006, but development has been postponed several times due to lack of investment. According to the company’s economic feasibility study, Tymlay will cost $700m to build. 

But now it seems that the issue of funding has finally been solved, with Chinese investors willing to finance the project. A 2015 announcement that China Machinery Engineering Corp. and China Metallurgical Group Corp. were willing to support Tymlay’s development was confirmed in June 2016, when the two Chinese companies signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Zhambyl authorities.

Under the terms of the MoU, the Chinese investors will fund almost all of Tymlay’s construction costs while the local government will assist with building infrastructure and by granting tax breaks to the mine, once it is operational. 

Data from the Kazakhstan Committee on Geology and Subsoil Resources states that the Tymlay deposit holds a mineral resource of around 500m tonnes, consisting principally of titan-magnetite and ilmenite with an average TiO2 content of 5.54%. 

At full capacity, the Tymlay processing plant is expected to produce 45,000 tpa TiO2, 10,000 tpa silica dioxide, 650,000 tpa vanadium pentoxide and 190,000 tpa special steels. 

Tenir-Logistic claims that the project’s output will be enough to make Kazakhstan self-sufficient in TiO2 and may yield surplus material for export.

Development of the deposit in Zhambyl Oblast has been taking place
since 2006 but has been postponed in the past owing to a lack of funds.  
Asia Development Bank, via Flickr 

Export replacement

Tymlay’s prospects were dealt a blow when a deal was signed by members of the Eurasian Economic Union, which comprises Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia, on 1 September 2016 suspending customs duties on imports of Russian TiO2 into Kazakhstan for a period of five years. 

This step was taken at the request of a group of Kazakhstan TiO2-consuming companies, who lobbied the government for access to cheaper supplies of the chemical, in the absence of domestic production.

It is not yet clear how this agreement will affect Tenir-Logistic’s plans, but the company will have to prove that its TiO2 is competitive with Russian material. So far, Tenir-Logistic has declined to comment on production costs.

According to Absadyuk Mamumov, a spokesman for the Zha-mbyl government, Kazakhstan’s national government is broadly in favour of the Tymlay scheme and is likely to reinstate import tariffs once Tymlay starts producing. 

He explained that it is difficult to manufacture products like TiO2 more cheaply in Kazakhstan than in Russia, where companies have easier access to credit and modern technology.