Oxus opens gold mine in Uzbekistan

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The Independent Online

Oxus Gold will open a gold mine in Uzbekistan today, the first new mine with foreign investment that the country has seen.

Oxus Gold will open a gold mine in Uzbekistan today, the first new mine with foreign investment that the country has seen.

Uzbekistan has the fourth largest gold resources in the world, but its potential has not been exploited - it is only the ninth largest gold producer. Its current output is based on the giant government-owned Murantau deposit, in central Uzbekistan, which is the largest open pit gold mine in the world and has been producing since 1969.

The Oxus project, Amantaytau, just 30 kilometres from Murantau, is a 50-50 joint venture between the company and the Uzbek government.

The Amantaytau mine contains 50 million ounces of geologically identified gold. Oxus has invested $55m in the project, which aims to produce 500,000 ounces a year within three years.

Richard Wilkins, an Oxus director, said: "We are only at phase one. Phase two will turn to the high grade deposits underground. The potential is huge."

Although today is the official opening of the Amantaytau mine, marked with a ceremony attended by company management as well as government officials, the mine has been producing since January and is already profitable. The average cash cost of production has been $123 per ounce, compared with the current gold price of above $400.

Uzbekistan, a land-locked authoritarian state that gained independence from Russia in 1991, has a limited private sector and has not attracted significant foreign investment.

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