Published on Wednesday February 06 2013 (AEST)
Uranium mining in southern Kazakhstan's Sozak region was suspended after extreme weather brought down power lines and flooded villages.
The storm on 13 January caused extensive damage in the Sozak region, with winds of 160-190 kilometres per hour bringing down overhead transmission lines owned by state nuclear company KazAtomProm.
The villages of Kyzymshek and Taukent as well as several of KazAtomProm's operations - the Taukent Mining Chemical Enterprise (TMCE), the Katco joint venture, the Ortalyk mining enterprise and the Appak joint venture - were left without power. Taukent was particularly badly hit, with serious damage to infrastructure and buildings. Mobile diesel generators and other equipment from mining operations including TMCE, Katco,
Stepnoye-MG and Karatau have been pressed into use to help restore services in the village, and KazAtomProm employees have been working alongside residents to clear debris. KazAtomProm explained the situation in a statement yesterday, estimating that it will take it up to six weeks to restore one key power line. The company did not say when it expects mining operations to resume. In the meantime, power has been restored to the villages by local energy company Ontustyk Zharyk Transit. The storm also caused damage to the logistics company that transports workers from the villages to the mines.
The overall extent of storm damage to KazAtomProm's enterprises is still being assessed, but the company's management has promised to rebuild employee's houses destroyed in the storm at its own expense. It is also working to rebuild and repair facilities including the Taukent's medical centre. KazAtomProm chairman Vladimir Shkolnik praised his employees for their prompt action in restoring vital services to the community and their role in emergency management on the day of the storm and during the cleanup operations.
Kazakhstan is the world's leading uranium producing country, producing 20,900 tonnes - around 37% of world output - in 2012. Its own production came to some 11,900 tonnes, of which about 9260 tonnes was exported.