November 9, 2011 / 7:59 AM / 7 years ago

Australian explorer to develop Kazakh copper field

* Great Western Exploration to develop Spasskaya field

* Signs Head of Agreement with Kazakh state miner

* Sees deposit prospective for copper, zinc, gold, silver

ALMATY, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Australian company Great Western Exploration Ltd has agreed to explore a prospective copper field in Kazakhstan and plans a joint venture with Kazakh state miner Tau-Ken Samruk to develop the deposit, both companies said on Wednesday.

Great Western Exploration said in a statement it would fund exploration of the Spasskaya copper field through to a bankable feasibility study in order to earn its 50 percent interest in the joint venture.

Tau-Ken Samruk, the mining arm of sovereign wealth Samruk-Kazyna, confirmed the deal without giving further details.

Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic five times the size of France, is the largest uranium miner in the world and holds 3 percent of the world’s recoverable oil reserves, as well as large deposits of copper, zinc and other industrial metals.

“Although Kazakhstan has a long history in mining, it still remains one of the most underexplored countries for minerals in the world,” Jordan Luckett, managing director for Great Western Exploration, said in the statement.

The Spasskaya project extends over 12,500 sq km (4,800 sq miles) in the central Kazakh region of Karagandy.

Great Western Exploration said it was targeting between 750,000 and 2 million tonnes of copper with grades of between 0.6 percent and 1.68 percent of contained copper metal, based on historical inventories.

But the company said historical drilling results would not be used to determine resources compliant with the Joint Ore Reserves Committee.

It said it expected to repeat much of the exploration drilling completed by Soviet geologists, adding that the region had “exploration upside” and the possibility for new discoveries of copper, gold, silver and zinc.

Great Western Exploration said payment would be deferred and calculated using a formula based on measured and indicated resources, copper price and recovery as defined in the bankable feasibility study.

The Spasskaya field is close to two railway lines and a main road and has access to power, the company said. Copper miner Kazakhmys operates mines and refineries in the same region.

Albert Rau, Kazakhstan’s deputy minister for industry and new technologies, said last December that Kazakhstan expected to invite either Rio Tinto or Vale to develop the Spasskaya project. (Reporting by Robin Paxton and Olga Orininskaya)

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