Rio Tinto Plans to Find Next Central Asian Giant Copper Deposit


Wednesday, June 22, 2011 – Multinational mining group Rio Tinto expects to discover the next gigantic copper deposit in Central Asia and is prepared to back up its dream with money, the company said in an interview published on Wednesday.

The British-Australian company plans to begin drilling at multiple copper targets in Uzbekistan before the year’s end and is trying to tie down a separate deal to explore several potential areas in Kazakhstan, a top company official told the Reuters news agency.

“We firmly believe that [in Uzbekistan] there are multiple copper prospects that are of high caliber and untested, so we’ll be looking to build a portfolio of two or three projects,” said Chris Welton, Rio Tinto’s general manager for exploration in Central Asia.

Welton told Reuters in an interview in the Kazakh commercial capital Almaty that Central Asia likely possesses large and deep reserves of copper that have gone undetected without the latest technologies.

“Technology has moved on. We are looking to apply that here in Kazakhstan,” he added.

Rio Tinto is waiting on Kazakh authorities to greenlight a 50-50 joint venture with state mining company Tau-Ken Samruk to begin exploring.

“We look at Kazakhstan and say: ‘The geology’s right. It’s got great potential and there’s been very little modern exploration done’,” Welton said.

“Quite rightly, Tau-Ken is taking time as this will be a precedent agreement which they want to get right,” he said, adding: “We also want to get it right, but we also want to start spending.”

Rio Tinto will open an office in the Kazakh capital Astana as part of its plans to develop in Central Asia, which the company regards as an uncharted frontier terrain.