China's Matrass to invest $4bn in Kyrgyz plant

By bne IntelliNews October 3, 2013

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China's Matrass Mining Group has announced it plans to invest around $4bn to build an alumina production complex in southwest Kyrgyzstan. Authorities hope the project will help develop the economy and attract other foreign investors.

The complex will have the capacity to process around 1m tonnes of ore per year, a spokesman for Zhenish Razakov, plenipotentiary government representative in the Batken region, told 24kg on October 2. Matrass executive director Azad Mikhailov explained that the ore will come from the nearby Zardalek deposit, which has reserves of over 5bn tonnes.

Around 5,000 people will be employed during the construction phase. "The enterprise's construction will not only reduce the unemployment rate, but also play an important role in social and economic development of the region. It will serve as an example for other foreign investors," Razakov said.

Beijing-based Matrass announced in 2011 that it had started exploration work in the Batken region after acquiring licenses for the Sugut and ZDK deposits. Mikhailov said at the time that the company had received "strong funding support" from international banks and planned to spend around $20m on the geological study, with a potential budget for Kyrgyzstan of over $4bn.

As has been the case in relation to projects across Central Asia - which is has witnessed increased resource nationalism through the crisis - local residents initially opposed the Chinese plans, citing concern over the impact on the environment. However, after talks between Matrass, local residents and regional government officials, the opposition was dropped.

Matrass says it has agreed to "strictly comply" with environmental rules and use the latest technologies to protect the environment. The company pledges to use modern technologies to reduce waste, Mikhailov told local government officials on October 2.

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