As a company that implements high standards of sustainable development, JSC AK Altynalmas is interested in introducing advanced technology to the gold mining industry.
STRIKING GOLD IN KAZAKHSTAN
In the mining and processing of gold, Kazakhstan has rightfully taken a leading position worldwide, with around 70 to 80 tonnes of refined product produced annually by the landlocked Central Asian country.
A total of nine gold mines across Kazakhstan are owned and operated by JSC AK Altynalmas, whose vision is to become a leading company in Central Asia’s gold mining sector.
In line with this vision, Kazakstan is a priority interest of JSC AK Altynalmas, with assets spanning four regions in the country – Zhambyl, Karaganda, Abay, and Akmola.
Minerals are processed at the company’s Akbakai, Aksu, and Dolinnoe gold recovery plants, as well as the Pustynnoe processing plant and Altynalmas Technology precious metals recovery facility.
The Aksu gold extraction plant was put into commercial operation in 2021, with a capacity of five million tonnes.
Last year, gold ore processing volumes were also increased at Akbakai with the launch of the second phase of the project, from 850,000 tonnes to 1.2 million. Phase two of the Zholymbet project in the Akloma region, meanwhile, has increased gold ore processing volumes to 650,000 tonnes, as well as the tailings processing volumes from 2.25 million tonnes to four million.
SODIUM CYANIDE PLANT
JSC AK Altynalmas was established in 1993 and is therefore celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
In that time, the company has grown to over 9,000 highly-qualified employees and deployed more than 120 units of mining equipment in the production process.
With a comprehensive geological, mining, and processing cycle, JSC AK Altynalmas is always looking to expand.
This was recently demonstrated by the company at an international forum held in November 2023 in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, which was designed to strengthen the focus on the development of in-country value and new initiatives to support Kazakhstan’s commodity producers.
At the forum, JSC AK Altynalmas outlined a sodium cyanide plant construction project with a capacity of 25,000 tonnes per year in the Zhambyl region.
The high-tech sodium cyanide plant will strategically secure Kazakhstan’s gold mining industry, fully satisfy domestic market requirements, and allow imports from Russia and China to be replaced.
With demand for sodium cyanide in neighbouring countries such as Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Mongolia predicted to grow over the next 10 years, the project also has high export-oriented potential.
The sodium cyanide product produced by the plant will be of the highest quality with at least 98 percent purity, for use in the hydrometallurgy of gold.
A KEY CHEMICAL
Sodium cyanide is a key and indispensable chemical for the gold mining industry today. Indeed, a sodium cyanide solution is commonly used to selectively leach gold from ore in a process called cyanidation, which since the 1970s has been the dominant gold extraction technology.
Although there have been several years of considerable scientific research, no other chemical reagent has come close to exhibiting the superior economic and environmental qualities of cyanide in the recovery of precious metals.
The industry is therefore highly dependent on sodium cyanide in order to extract gold from ore.
JSC AK Altynalmas supports the development of in-country value with the implementation of large-scale projects such as the sodium cyanide plant. This will help to create an entire ecosystem that equally meets the needs of government policy and big business, the interests of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and ensures the sustainable economic development of the country.
More than 100 permanent jobs will be created by the implementation of the sodium cyanide plant.
The project will also provide a strong impetus for the development of the entire chemical industry, as it will ensure the advancement of allied and related industries by creating additional demand.
The plan is to commission the plant by the end of 2025, with modern technologies applied in the spheres of production efficiency and environmental protection.
The new plant will use the best available technologies and modern health, safety, and environment (HSE) standards. For example, it envisages a zero-emission closed water circuit, as well as an environmentally-friendly system for the emergency incineration of recycled gases.
Sustainable development is incidentally one of JSC AK Altynalmas’ main values, in which it builds the business based on best sustainable development practices using industry-leading technologies.
In July 2023, JSC AK Altynalmas became the first company in Kazakhstan’s mining and metallurgical sector to implement green rules at its facilities, establishing key requirements for compliance to ensure environmental safety.
The main goal of introducing these principles, which represent an important tool for increasing environmental culture, responsibility, and self-awareness among the company’s employees and partners, is to eliminate or minimise the impact of production factors on the environment.
JSC AK Altynalmas is committed to environmental sustainability and responsible business practices in its daily activities and will continue to implement best practices and technologies to minimise the environmental impact of its operations and preserve natural resources for future generations.
This is complemented by the additional values of innovation, cooperation, professionalism, and safety, which further underpin the company’s work.
DEVELOPING PEOPLE AND PERFORMANCE
People are key to the success of JSC AK Altynalmas, whose large-scale and complex projects offer splendid opportunities for professional and career development.
It is the company’s strategic priority to encourage growth in its employees and invest in the development of their competencies, as they strive for continuous improvement.
Although it’s difficult to recruit skilled staff, JSC AK Altynalmas provides in-house training and always promotes from within.
Indeed, over 96 percent of the company’s employees undertake training courses, and each year, staff members take part in more than 450 various training events.
Employees also have higher learning opportunities, with JSC AK Altynalmas sponsoring the education of 59 employees in 2021.
As well as training and career development, the company provides competitive remuneration and has developed a financial incentive system to stimulate high performance based on clear goal setting for each area of expertise.
One of the ways in which JSC AK Altynalmas has aimed to improve staff performance, as well as increase operational efficiency and reduce production costs, is through its Digital Mine programme, which was approved in 2017.
Business processes have been automated and digitalised by the programme, which includes digital technologies and elements of Industry 4.0. For example, maintenance and repair operations (MRO) for static and mobile equipment have been automated with the development of equipment process flowcharts, the integration of tools for MRO, and the optimisation of MRO resources.
JSC AK Altynalmas’ gold recovery plants have also been automated with an artificially intelligent big data analysis cloud system, whilst advanced exploration solutions have been introduced to the company’s mining and geological operations.
The Digital Mine programme is therefore of great importance to JSC AK Altynalmas, as it looks ahead to the next 30 years of gold mining in Kazakhstan.