The mining and metallurgical industry occupies one of the leading places in the economy of Uzbekistan. At the initiative of the Head of our state, a number of programs are being implemented in this area to create a favorable investment climate, increase the share of local products in the international market, modernize and introduce advanced technologies.
Navoi Mining and Metallurgical Plant (NMMP) occupies a worthy place in the industry and economy of our country, is one of the ten world leaders in the production of gold and uranium.
During our conversation with the Director General of NMMP Kuvandik Sanakulovich SANAKULOV, the 62-year history of the plant was analyzed and the prospects for the development of the enterprise for the near future were outlined.
– Kuvandik Sanakulovich, the President of Uzbekistan in his Address to the Oliy Majlis on December 29 last year set a number of tasks for the industries. What is your opinion on this matter?
– A distinctive feature of this Address, first of all, is that it ended a difficult year both for Uzbekistan and the whole world. The pandemic, natural and man-made disasters and, as a result, serious economic challenges tested the strength of the strategic course of development chosen by the President. Today, looking back, we can say with confidence that Uzbekistan not only passed the tests that it came across, but also achieved a few important victories.
The Head of state, addressing the parliament, and the people of Uzbekistan, in fact, presented to the public a report of the supreme power on the work carried out during the year to implement the strategic development goals of the country, and also identified the most important tasks, key priorities for further reform and modernization of Uzbekistan for the coming period. Reducing poverty and improving the well-being of the population are declared as the main and strategic goals in 2021. Ensuring high rates of economic growth and creating equal opportunities for all through deep structural transformations will serve as the basis for achieving the set goals in all spheres of life. The President noted that the government’s participation in the economy will decrease in 2021 and in subsequent years. Thus, the number of enterprises with state participation in the next two years is planned to be reduced by at least three times. For this, 32 enterprises of strategic sectors will be transformed. Technical and organizational assistance in this process will be provided by specialists attracted from abroad. Next year, Uzbekneftegaz JSC, Uzbekgidroenergo, Uzavtosanoat, as well as the Navoi Mining and Metallurgical Plant will be able to enter the international financial market and raise funds without government guarantees.
The outlined set of measures will serve the formation of a “new” Uzbekistan in the coming decades.
– Can you please tell us about the results of the work of the NMMP staff last year and the prospects for 2021.
– By the end of 2020, the volume of production at the plant amounted to 49.2 trillion soums, with the fulfillment of the forecast by 105.3%, the growth rate compared to the previous year was 106.5 percent. At the same time, the forecast volume of gold production was exceeded by 4 tons, and in comparison with the previous year – 5.1 tons. As a result of this, additional products worth $ 300 million were produced. Silver production amounted to more than 20 tons with a growth rate of 105.4%, uranium – more than 3.5 tons with a growth rate of 100.3%. The exported products amounted to $ 266 million with the fulfillment of the forecast by 110%. Under the Product Localization Program, products were manufactured under 138 projects worth 352.3 billion soums, the growth rate was 151.8 percent.
Now about the tasks to be completed in 2021. Firstly, the volume of production is forecasted at the level of more than 51 trillion soums, which is 2 trillion soums more compared to 2020. To achieve this, the following activities are planned:
● it is necessary to increase the volume of extraction, mining and processing of gold-bearing ore;
● the range and geography of product exports will be expanded on a systematic basis;
● products worth 433 billion soums will be produced under the localization program;
● a set of measures directed at reduction of the production cost will lead to 1,052.8 billion soums in savings;
● the plant will have the opportunity to create 3.5 thousand new jobs;
● the financial result of activities for the current year is projected at the level of 10 381 billion soums with a growth rate of 103.2%;
● payments to the state budget will amount to over 32 trillion soums (102%);
● large-scale work will be carried out to organize public control, create a system of open dialogue with the media about existing problems and measures taken to solve them.
– Kuvandik Sanakulovich, the Navoi Mining and Metallurgical Plant has a glorious past. How has it all begun?
– Since ancient times it has been known that the bowels of the Kyzyl Kum desert are rich in minerals, but the large-scale work on the exploration and extraction of minerals began on this territory only in the middle of the twentieth century. A large uranium deposit discovered by geologists of Uzbekistan in 1952 was located near three wells of the ancient caravan route, from which it received the name Uchkuduk. In the search for minerals and the development of the mining industry, such famous Uzbek geologists as Kh.T. Tulyaganov and I.Kh. Khamrabaev have made an invaluable contribution. As a result of exploration carried out in 1958 on the processing of uranium reserves found in Uchkuduk, the Navoi Mining and Metallurgical Plant was formed. At the same time, the largest gold deposit Muruntau was discovered, which was the discovery of the century. So, 1958 marked the beginning of work on the extraction of uranium. In parallel, since 1963 in Uchkuduk, the technology of uranium extraction by in-situ leaching method, developed by the specialists of the plant, has been introduced, and since 1995, they have completely switched to mining by this method. In 1964, hydrometallurgical plant No. 1 was commissioned, and industrial production of uranium oxide-oxide began. Highways and railways, auxiliary subdivisions of the plant were consistently built, the cities of Uchkuduk, Zarafshan, Navoi, Zafarabad were built in the desert, water pipes were laid. In 1969, the first gold ingot was obtained at hydrometallurgical plant No. 2, weighing 11.82 kilograms. So, the history of NMMP is long and interesting.
– What is the scale of the enterprise’s activities today?
– NMMP is the core of the innovative mining and metallurgical cluster of Uzbekistan. This is the only mining enterprise that has mastered the full production cycle – from exploration of reserves in the subsoil, mining and processing of ore to obtaining uranium oxide and finished gold bars of the highest standard. The innovation cluster is located on the territory of five regions of the republic – Navoi, Samarkand, Khorezm, Jizzakh, Surkhandarya and the Republic of Karakalpakstan. It unites the activities of industrial, scientific-production and educational clusters, creating an excellent basis for the implementation of new forms of integration of knowledge and technologies, the emergence of breakthrough scientific and technological areas, support of education and science, small and medium-sized innovative entrepreneurship.
The structure of NMMP includes five main mining and metallurgical enterprises, on the basis of which the cities of Navoi, Uchkuduk, Zarafshan, Zafarabad, Nurabad and Zarkent are built. The largest among the five mining administrations in the structure of the plant is the Central Mining Administration, in which about 30 divisions of the main and auxiliary industries carry out their production activities: hydrometallurgical plant No. 2, Muruntau mine, heap leaching of gold shop, Auminzo-Amantoy mine, departments of road and rail transport and others. Moreover, hydrometallurgical plant No. 2 is one of the largest in the world for processing of gold ore and production of refined gold. The plant’s annual ore processing capacity increased to 40 million tons per year. The manufactured products comply with the London Bullion Market Association standard.
NMMP specialists have accumulated extensive experience in the operation of combined road, conveyor and railway transportation of rock mass. In terms of the volume of movement of rocks and ores, the Muruntau quarry occupies one of the leading positions in the world. Since 2011, a CPT-ore complex with a steeply inclined (37°) conveyor (KNK) with a rock mass lifting height of 270 meters has been successfully operated here.
The Northern Mining Administration occupies the second place in terms of power and importance. It is rightfully considered the cradle of the NMMP, since, as I said above, it was here in 1958 that the industrial development of the subsoil of the Central Kyzyl Kum began. Today, the Northern Mining Administration has a well-developed infrastructure and carries out the extraction and processing of gold and uranium-containing ores, the production of sulfuric acid, and consumer goods. Hydrometallurgical Plant No. 3 as part of this mining administration is one of the largest in the world for processing of refractory gold sulfide ores using a complex of technologies. The ores of the Kokpatas and Daugyztau deposits are processed here.
The Southern Mining Administration is the third in terms of raw material processing. It includes mines for extraction and processing of gold-bearing ores, sites for underground leaching of uranium, the production of polyvinyl chloride and polyethylene products. The development of the Zarmitan gold ore zone continues at an accelerated pace due to the commissioning of the Zarmitan, Gujumsay and Urtalik mines. On the basis of this ore zone, Hydrometallurgical Plant No. 4 is successfully operated, where ore is processed using intensive gravity technology and intensive leaching of gold-bearing concentrate. A line for processing of refractory sulfide ores according to the gravity-flotation-roasting scheme is operated at the Marjanbulak mine.
The Mining Administration No. 5 is the largest enterprise of the plant for extraction of uranium, it includes four geotechnological mines for underground leaching of uranium, 17 deposits are involved in development. Mining administration GMZ-1 came into existence only 7 years ago, and in this short period of time, due to the technical upgrading and reconstruction of the existing technological processing, ore processing has increased 1.5 times, which involves the gold-bearing ores of the Karakutan and Aristantau deposits. In addition, one of the world’s largest plants for production of refined pure uranium oxide-oxide operates here.
A special place in the structure of the NMMP is occupied by Zarafshan Construction Department. All construction, installation and mechanical work in all subdivisions of the plant is carried out by civil engineers of this department. The cities in the Kyzylkum region, industrial enterprises, social and cultural facilities have been built by them.
– After Uzbekistan gained independence, did the NMMP got new opportunities for further development? What has been done to increase gold production and what are your plans for the future?
– Over the years of independence, as a result of the efforts of highly qualified employees of the plant, as well as the implementation of a scientifically based strategy for the technical upgrade of its divisions, the mining and processing of ore, product quality, and the volume of exports have increased. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that over the past decade, the plant has built new enterprises equipped with advanced technologies, which manufacture products that are competitive in foreign markets and meet international standards.
In particular, in 1995, the Hydrometallurgical Plant No. 3 was built in Uchkuduk, and a heap leaching complex for gold was put into operation in Zarafshan. In 2002, a plant for production of emulsion explosives was launched on board the Muruntau quarry. In 2010, GMZ-4 was put into operation in Zarmitan, built in record time – 11 months. In 2011, a unique steeply inclined conveyor was commissioned at the Muruntau mine. All of the above is only a small part of the work done.
The significant economic potential of the plant, high qualifications of its employees and the implementation of a scientifically grounded strategy of technical re-equipment made it possible to increase the efficiency of the NMMP: during the years of independence, the volume of rock mass excavation increased 5 times, ore processing – 3 times, the volume of production and the number of employees – 2 times.
– What is the role of the large-scale reforms and important investment programs carried out at the plant in improving the socio-economic situation of the country’s regions?
– It is known that the Head of state approved the Program to increase the production of precious metals by the plant until 2026 worth $ 3.1 billion. The implementation of 27 large investment projects under this program, carried out over the past four years at a rapid pace in accordance with the established plan, will increase production by 30% and create more than 30 thousand jobs. To date, $ 1.6 billion has been utilized under the program, 10 facilities have been commissioned, as a result, gold production increased by 10%, silver – by 45%. As part of the implementation of this program, the construction of Hydrometallurgical Plant No. 5 on the basis of the Auminzo-Amantau gold deposit is in full swing. In the coming months, it is planned to launch the first stage of GMZ-5 for processing 2 million tons of sulfide ore; in 2022, the second stage will be launched, which will bring the plant to its design capacity for processing up to 5 million tons of ore per year. The construction of the plant opens the way for large-scale development of underground minerals that are strategically important for the economy of the republic. Until 2022, on the basis of the Auminzo-Amantau gold deposit, it is planned to gradually explore more than 30 medium and large deposits of oxidized and sulfide ores.
To date, the project has utilized $ 219.3 million in capital investments. The construction of the first stage of the plant is nearing completion, along with this – the construction of gas, electricity and water supply networks, 18 km of railways. 191 units of modern mining machinery and other equipment were purchased for $ 108 million. As envisaged by the program, the use of the new oxygen-lime treatment technology instead of roasting and sulfuric acid technology will save $ 31 million.
In addition to production, the project provides for the development of the region’s social infrastructure. In the very heart of the Kyzyl Kum desert, on an area of 9 hectares, a town for 2.5 thousand people was built, accommodating 4 apartment buildings for workers and their families, 14 hostels with amenities, trade and catering facilities, consumer services.
The project “Construction of a complex (GMZ-7) for processing of industrial waste from the heap leaching shop” provides for processing of industrial heap leaching waste in the amount of 15 million tons per year and creation of more than 1.1 thousand new jobs. To date, four mill units with a processing capacity of 10 million tons of industrial waste per year have been put into operation ahead of schedule. With the launch of the complete complex this year, 7.5 tons of gold per year will be produced from waste. A distinctive feature of this initiative is that such a solution for the processing of industrial heap leaching waste is used for first time in world practice and has no analogues in terms of volume and technological methods.
Implementation of the project “Expansion of production capacities of GMZ-2”, which began in 2018, will increase the production capacity of GMZ-2 to 50 million tons of ore processing (current capacity is 38 million tons). The launch of the complete complex is scheduled for 2023.
The next investment project – “Construction of a complex for extraction and processing of gold-bearing ores of the Pistali deposit (GMZ-6)” on the territory of Nurata district will be implemented during 2020-2024 with the commissioning of a new plant. The total design capacity for extraction and processing of gold-bearing ores will be 4 million tons per year.
The implementation of these investment projects by the plant affects various sectors of the economy of Tamdy, Uchkuduk, Nurata districts of Navoi region, as well as Koshrabad district of Samarkand region. The industrial facilities under construction have a positive impact on the development of the industrial, transport and social infrastructure of the regions and, as a rule, require the involvement of significant labor resources, which cannot but affect the living standards and employment of the population. Another important point is strengthening the local budgets of the regions by increasing tax revenues.
– In modern conditions, the place and role of the country in the world economy is largely determined by the level of its scientific and technological development, the ability to develop and introduce advanced achievements of science and technology into production, and effectively use the intellectual potential. In our age of rapidly developing industries, it is important not to stand aside and keep up with global trends. What steps are being taken by the NMMP in this direction?
– The NMMP keeps up with the times, practically continuously introducing new technologies, innovative solutions and projects in its divisions, modernizing the existing facilities. All large divisions have formed innovative technology services. There is the Central Research Laboratory. It is here that hundreds of methods have been developed for analysis of ores, technologies, the quality of finished products, the effectiveness of which is confirmed by the certificate of the “Gosstandart” (standard) of the country. Many innovations introduced at the plant were created by scientists and specialists working in the structural divisions of the NMMP. Among them are 9 doctors and 28 candidates of technical sciences.
The plant successfully cooperates with such leading foreign institutions as JSC VNIPIpromtechnologiya (Moscow, Russia), RUSREDMET (St. Petersburg, Russia), CJSC “RIVS”, VNIMI (Ural branch, Russia), JSC “Irgiredmet” (Russia), Integra-Group (USA), “Integra RU” LLC (Russia), engineering firm ENGINEERING DOBERSEK GmbH (Germany). Over the past ten years, specialists of the plant in the patent offices of Uzbekistan, Russia, Ukraine, Germany and Switzerland have patented more than 31 inventions. For development and implementation of the invention “Method for recovering gold from refractory sulfide gold-arsenic ores” for the first time in the history of the domestic mining and metallurgical industry in 2017, the NMMC employees were awarded the gold medal “For Invention” by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
– Kuvandik Sanakulovich, what is your opinion on the place and position of the NMMP in the modern world economy?
– To begin with, we note that, according to geological exploration data, Uzbekistan is among the top five countries with the largest explored and proven gold reserves. Today NMMP takes the 3rd place among the world gold producers in terms of the volume of raw materials, and the 8th place in terms of gold production. Annual gold production volumes of NMMP have a positive growth trend. And we hope that implementation of the above projects on increasing gold production will ensure that NMMP joins the top five world leaders in terms of gold production.
In addition, at present, NMMP is the only enterprise in the country that extracts uranium and exports finished products in the form of uranium oxide. Today there are 38 uranium deposits in Uzbekistan, of which 34 are of the sandstone type and 4 are of the black shale type. Uzbekistan annually produces about 3.5 thousand tons of uranium and ranks 5th in the world in terms of its production. Taking this into account, it is safe to say that the plant is one of the world’s largest uranium producers. These high figures, as you can see, testify to the worthy place of the NMMP in the world economy.
– Any modern enterprise, such as the NMMP has to widely introduce modern information and communication technologies. What has been done in this regard at the industrial facilities of the plant?
– On the scale of our plant, it is important not only to introduce modern information and communication technologies, but to a greater extent to automate the production. At the production sites of hydrometallurgical plants, intelligent systems are being introduced based on a modern integrated automated control system. This system provides end-to-end digital control of technological processes at all stages and provides objective data for a quick response to ongoing changes, leading to the elimination of accidents, downtime, wear, the need for repairs and thereby increasing efficiency. A system for dispatching and monitoring the operation of heavy-duty dump trucks and excavators based on a satellite monitoring system has been introduced at open gold mining pits.
– The successful operation of such a large and complex industrial facility as your plant is directly dependent on the human resources policy of the enterprise. It is necessary to train personnel who meet the requirements of the time – specialists and highly qualified workers. How is this issue being addressed?
– We have established the training system for relevant engineering and technical and working personnel capable of performing the primary tasks for stable development of enterprises in the mining and metallurgical industry and increasing their production capacity. Training of young specialists and highly qualified workers is carried out in 6 training centers of the plant. In the management of enterprises, the implementation of important tasks is entrusted to modern and creative thinkers, capable of making decisions and taking responsibility for themselves in different situations, energetic and courageous, educated and patriotic young personnel.
One of the main universities providing the plant with specialists is the Navoi State Mining Institute. At the institute, 26 Doctors of Science and 58 Candidates of Sciences teach students in special disciplines and areas that are in demand for work at our enterprises.
– Tens of thousands of people work at the enterprises of the NMMP, who, as you know, are attracted not only by the stability of the enterprise, but also by a wide range of social guarantees. Can you tell us more about this?
– Today the NMMP employs more than 56 thousand people. This is the largest workforce in the country. And their work is not easy. Therefore, much attention is paid to social protection of not only our workers, but also their family members. Considerable social guarantees are provided by our Collective Agreement, which comprehensively takes into account all the vital issues of not only employees, but also retirees of the plant. For this category, a social package has been in effect for more than a decade, which includes the annual benefit, preferential medical care and sanatorium treatment. On the eve of public holidays, lonely seniors, war and labor veterans are provided with comprehensive social support.
For workers working in hazardous working conditions, medical and preventive nutrition is provided. The plant’s medical care is represented by the medical and sanitary department, which unites 5 large medical and sanitary institutions located in the cities of the plant with coverage of eligible population of 200 thousand people.
The administration of the plant and the Council of the Trade Union provide workers with opportunities for full-fledged health-improving recreation in the sanatoriums “Metallurg”, “Konchi” and “NMMP”, at the recreation center «Tudakul», in the boarding house “Zarafshon”, in which more than 11.9 thousand people get treatment annually. Every year in the summer, country and city camps provide full rest and recuperation for more than 10.8 thousand children. Annually in all camps of the enterprise, children from the orphanages “Mehribonlik” and “Shodlik” of Navoi region spend holidays at the expense of the plant. The NMMP allocates vouchers to summer camps for children from low-income families in remote steppe regions of Tomdy, Nurata, Zarafshan, Uchkuduk, amd Konimekh.
The management of the NMMP pays special attention to the development of physical culture and sports among the workers of the plant and their families; there is an effective system of health and fitness clubs, provided through appropriate sports complexes.
– Due to the pandemic and a number of tragic events, 2020 turned out to be a difficult year for many industries and enterprises. How did the NMMP team survive these tests?
– We have taken all possible measures to prevent the spread of infection in our facilities. It is worth recognizing that 2020 brought many challenges both for our people and for our plant and other sectors of the economy. Having successfully overcome these tests together with our team of many thousands, we ensured the smooth operation of our facilities and exceeded the target plans. Despite the lingering risks of the coronavirus pandemic, production continues at a high pace in all our divisions.
The past year has indeed been rife with unpleasant events. But in our plant, there has always been and remains unchanged such a noble cause as helping in difficult times. The staff of many thousands voluntarily donated money to the public fund “Mercy and Health”, the national movement “Generosity and Support”. At the initiative of our youth, the compatriots who suffered as a result of the man-made disaster and natural disasters were provided with food, bedding and other essential items. Within the framework of the national movement “Sakhovat va Komak” 16 types of food packages were given to large families, people with disabilities, orphans and single elderly people living in Navoi, Samarkand, Jizzakh, Surkhandarya regions and the Republic of Karakalpakstan.
The trade union established a Fund for Financial Support of Workers during the Pandemic targeted at low-income, socially vulnerable workers, workers living in makhallas affected by the spring torrential rains in Zarafshan.
In 2021, we also have many tasks – we will complete the projects we have started and start new ones. The Navoi Mining and Metallurgical Plant continues to follow the development path with confident strides, which provides for construction of new and modernization of existing enterprises, an increase in production volumes, as well as creation of jobs to ensure employment of the population.
– Kuvandik Sanakulovich, we see that the NMMP remains a stable enterprise and a reliable guarantor of strengthening the country’s economy. Thank you for your sincere conversation.