Landscape in Kazakhstan

Our performance

KAZ Minerals seeks to minimise its environmental impact wherever possible. As the Group transitions to large scale open pit operations its impact will change and may increase in absolute terms. The key areas of environmental management for the Group are energy use, emissions, water use, waste generation, biodiversity and rehabilitation.

Energy use

Electricity and heat energy use in the Group during 2015 has increased overall compared to the continuing operations in 2014 due to higher consumption at the mining projects of Bozymchak, Bozshakol and Aktogay. At Bozymchak, energy use has increased as processing operations ramped up during the year. Energy use has increased at Bozshakol as mining operations commenced in 2015 for the first time, whilst at Aktogay both mining operations and SX/EW processing commenced in 2015. Gross Group electricity consumption in 2015, which includes heat energy, was 824 GWh, an increase of 15% compared to the continuing operations in 2014.

Under the GRI4 definition of total energy consumption, which includes electricity, heat energy and solid, liquid or gas fuel consumption, total Group energy consumption in 2015 (net of heat energy sold) was 4.6 petajoules (PJ), split as follows:

Energy Consumption

Greenhouse gas emissions

The Group generated 386,239 tonnes of Scope 1 CO2 emissions and 528,636 tonnes of Scope 2 emissions in 2015. Prior to the Restructuring, the Group operated a number of power assets, including three captive power stations and Ekibastuz GRES-1, the largest power station in Kazakhstan, in which the Group held a 50% interest until its sale on 1 April 2014. In 2014, Group CO2 emissions amounted to 12.1 million tonnes of Scope 1 emissions with negligible Scope 2 emissions. As the Group no longer operates significant power assets it is now a net purchaser of power from outside sources, resulting in an increase in Scope 2 emissions in 2015, and significantly reduced Scope 1 emissions compared to the Group’s emissions prior to the Restructuring. 82% of the Scope 1 CO2 emissions in 2015 were due to the operation of an energy grid and provision of heat to the mining operations in the East Region using coal powered facilities.

The mining and concentrating operations in the East Region accounted for 88% of the Scope 2 emissions, as power is purchased from external sources. Mining and processing at Bozshakol and Aktogay, where power is also purchased from external sources, accounted for 11% of Scope 2 emissions as mining operations commenced at both of these projects and SX/EW processing commenced at Aktogay. Scope 2 emissions at Bozshakol and Aktogay will increase in 2016 as mining and processing ramp up, in particular at the newly commissioned sulphide concentrator at Bozshakol.

Scope 2 emissions at Bozymchak of 3,318 tonnes, making up 1% of Group Scope 2 emissions, are considered low for the size of the asset as a large proportion of power generated in Kyrgyzstan is provided by hydroelectric dams which have zero carbon emissions, resulting in a GRI4 country factor for Kyrgyzstan of 0.11. Bozymchak emitted 10,739 tonnes of Scope 1 CO2 from the use of coal and diesel on site for heating and vehicles.

The Group continues to participate in the Government of Kazakhstan’s CO2 cap and trade system, launched in 2014. The system issues carbon quotas to entities whose annual CO2 emissions exceed 20,000 tonnes.

Copper mining and processing are energy-intensive activities and can result in significant emissions of both Scope 1 and Scope 2 CO2. However, the Group views the potential for a transition towards renewable energy generation and other low carbon technologies to be an important element of the Group’s outlook on the global market for copper. The supply of copper will be essential for establishing a low carbon economy, due to its use in power transmission infrastructure, turbines, solar cells, electric motors and electrically powered vehicles.

As Bozshakol and Aktogay ramp up, the increase in mining and processing activity undertaken by the Group will result in higher absolute levels of CO2 emissions. However, the new projects employ the latest technology in modern, large-scale equipment which will significantly improve the Group’s CO2 emissions per tonne of ore processed. The projects are also located close to the land border between Kazakhstan and China, the largest global market for copper. By supplying end users in the west of China with copper from Kazakhstan transported using existing rail links, Scope 3 CO2 emissions associated with the transportation of copper concentrate are minimised.

Greenhouse gas emissions


Water is a high priority for KAZ Minerals. From 2015 the Group has further aligned its reporting with the definitions used by GRI4 for extraction and discharge of water. Total water extraction was 15,340 megalitres, consisting of: (i) 6,745 megalitres extracted from surface water sources (including rivers) or from municipal water supplies; (ii) 4,046 megalitres extracted from groundwater wells, and (iii) 4,549 megalitres obtained from groundwater inflows into underground mines as a natural consequence of mining activities.

The total discharge of water back into the environment was 6,801 megalitres and took place at three locations in the East Region. Two of these locations are at underground mining operations which are situated large distances from the processing plants, making it uneconomic to pump the water back for re-use. The third discharge occurs at waste rock dumps adjacent to a closed open pit mine, where acidic drainage water is collected. In each of these locations the water is treated prior to release to the environment.

KAZ Minerals re-uses as much water as possible. The main re-use stream is from final tailings thickeners and from tailings dams. This re-use stream represents the majority of the total water input to concentrators in the East Region operations, with the only losses in the system due to unavoidable evaporation and water bound up in tailings. Mine water which would otherwise be discharged is re-used at Artemyevsky and Zhezkent in mining backfill plants, where water is required to cure concrete backfill.

Each operational site uses a combination of surface water and groundwater sources while seeking to use different water sources to those used by the local communities. At Bozshakol the main source of water is the nearby Satpayev canal. The canal was constructed in the 1950s and is fed by the Irtysh river. The canal was designed and built specifically for the purpose of supplying agriculture and industrial facilities along its route. There is an adequate water supply to satisfy the requirements of the project and all other users of the system.

The Aktogay project will extract most of the water it requires for both oxide ore leaching and sulphide ore processing from groundwater sources, which are more than adequate to supply the project. As with Bozshakol, the modern sulphide processing facilities at Aktogay will minimise water loss through evaporation and tailings and will recycle around 80% of process water used in the concentrator. The oxide facilities at Aktogay are also designed to re-use as much of the process water as possible. The only losses are due to unavoidable evaporation in the circuit.

At the Group’s Bozymchak mine, in the mountainous west of Kyrgyzstan, there is a plentiful supply of fresh water from surface sources for mining and processing activities. The same fast flowing water sources are also used to support the generation of hydroelectric power in the region. The project captures and recycles a high proportion of the process water that it uses through a dry tailings facility which produces a filter cake consisting of 86% solids, returning captured water back to the concentrator for re-use.


Our operations produce significant amounts of waste, which mainly consists of overburden and tailings.

Compliance with the Government Environmental Code requires companies in Kazakhstan to develop waste management plans. We manage our waste in line with our annual license commitments, seeking to minimise waste generation 
where appropriate and improve disposal processes.

The Group’s mining operations generated 14.3 MT of waste in 2015, consisting predominantly of waste rock from stripping activities and tailings from processed ore. There were also minor quantities of wastes from water treatment operations and general industrial waste. This represents an 80% reduction compared to total waste generation in 2014 for the full Group before the Restructuring of 72.8 MT. However, compared to the waste generated by the continuing operations in 2014, there was a 240% increase due to large scale pre-stripping and mining operations at Bozshakol and Bozymchak in 2015.


Overburden from stripping works at the Group’s assets in the East Region and Bozymchak, which is classified separately from tailings and processing waste under GRI4 guidelines, increased from 0.9 MT in 2014 to 4.7 MT due to stripping activity at the Bozymchak open pit mine, whilst Bozshakol generated 5.2 MT of overburden and Aktogay 0.5 MT in 2015.

The waste recycling rate in 2015 was 5% compared to 33% for the continuing operations in 2014. The majority of recycling of waste is achieved through the use of tailings in the manufacture of cemented backfill. This is a requirement of the mining methods used at the Group’s underground mines and if tailings are not used it would be necessary to import sand from the external environment for this purpose at a higher cost. The reduction in the rate of recycling reflects the changes in the Group’s assets following the Restructuring, as a number of mature underground mines were disposed of which had a higher backfill requirement compared to the continuing operations. The reduction in the recycling rate in 2015 is also due to stripping activity being undertaken at Bozshakol, Aktogay and Bozymchak which are all open pit operations that do not require backfill, thereby temporarily increasing the amount of waste produced at the same time as reducing the Group’s overall recycling rate.

Whilst the removal of overburden is at an elevated level at this stage of the development of the Group’s assets, the ratio of overburden to ore mined (stripping ratio), over the life of the operations at the Group’s projects is very low compared to global averages. Bozshakol has a strip ratio of 0.7, Aktogay 0.2 and Bozymchak 1.8.

Tailings pose potentially high environmental risks and are a priority for the Group. In Kazakhstan tailings management is regulated by subsoil law and the Environmental Code. The Group currently operates four tailings facilities, which are subject to rigorous internal monitoring and risk assessment as well as regular inspections by the regulatory authorities.

3.9 MT of tailings waste was generated at the four concentrator sites in the East Region and Bozymchak, compared to 2.8 MT in 2014, an increase of 39%. The increase was due to the ramp up of concentrator operations at Bozymchak and higher throughput at the Nikolayevsky concentrator following upgrade works.

At Bozymchak, tailings are filtered before being transported as a filter cake, with a moisture content of approximately 14%, by conveyor to the tailings storage facilities. Use of this type of facility was considered to be a necessary investment to minimise environmental risks after assessing the seismicity of the region and the mountainous terrain.

There was minimal tailings waste produced at the Bozshakol and Aktogay projects in 2015. At Aktogay production of copper commenced, but the oxide SX/EW process which started up in December 2015 does not generate tailings waste in its heap leaching operation. Leach solution is recycled once copper has been extracted and water run-off from the ore heap is collected and treated before being re-used in the leaching process.

The amount of tailings waste generated by the Group will increase in 2016 as the Bozshakol project ramps up. The tailings facility at Bozshakol is a modern design which will distribute tailings waste centrally in a ‘cone’ shape, allowing for more efficient recovery of standing water from around the tailings and exerting lower pressure on the walls of the tailings storage facility. The Aktogay project will adopt the same approach when it starts production from sulphide ore in 2017.

Biodiversity and rehabilitation

Our operations set aside funds for site restoration as a condition of its contracts and subsoil licenses, which includes dismantling and demolition of infrastructure, removal of residual materials and remediation of disturbed areas. At the end of 2015, these provisions totalled $9 million.

We also try to ensure our sites minimise disturbance to surrounding landscapes during the lifecycle of our operations. Although we do not operate in biodiversity endangered areas, every site has an annual programme of initiatives aimed at keeping the existing flora and fauna intact and improving biodiversity where necessary. This includes annual tree and shrub planting as well as soft landscaping.

Environmental compliance

Our sites monitor environmental performance and compliance and liaise with the regulator on any emerging issues. A system of regular internal inspections ensures we address minor concerns in a timely manner, in addition to this all our sites are subject to scheduled and unscheduled regulatory assessments. Government inspectors typically assess our compliance with issued permits, waste storage regulations and any equipment malfunctions that may result in leaks or excess emissions.

Environmental permits are granted to all of our operations, setting annual limits for emissions, water use and water discharge. If levels exceed these limits, charges are applied in proportion to the amount of emissions or usage in excess of the limits.

There were no major environmental incidents at our operations in 2015. However, at the Nikolayevsky complex, which forms part of the East Region operations, an emissions charge of $550,000 was levied on a seepage of process water from the tailings storage dam. Seepage interceptor collection drains and recovery bores will be used to remedy the seepage. The water discharged is close to the tailings facility and is not extracted for use by any other parties. The discharge has not contaminated local water supplies. An emissions charge of $230,000 was also levied at the Orlovsky complex. This was due to a delay in obtaining a renewed emissions permit for tailings storage in the Orlovsky tailings dam. The breach was of an administrative nature and was not related to any potential risk to the environment or to the safe operation of the tailings dam.

In 2015, we paid approximately $780,000 in charges for emissions exceeding permitted levels and a further $10,390 in fines which were largely administrative in nature.