Two core storage facilities to be built in Kazakhstan — Brekeshev

The Minister of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan Serikkali Brekeshev reported on progress in the execution of the President’s order at a meeting in the Central Communications Service.

At the last extended meeting of the Government, the President took up two important tasks with the Ministry of Ecology: the development of the geological industry and the adoption of measures to manage saiga population.

Regarding geology

Today, the geological industry is characterized by a low replenishment of reserves and a low level of investment in geological studies. The main tasks of the industry are:

– increasing the state of geological exploration and identification of prospective areas;

– developing infrastructure of geological industry and geological science;

– introducing digitalization and automation of processes;

– improving legislation. 

As reported by the Minister of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources, these issues are reflected in the draft Concept for the Development of Geological Industry until 2025 developed by the Ministry of Ecology, which is under consideration by the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Kazakhstan and in the National Project "Sustainable economic growth aimed at improving the welfare of Kazakhstan’s people". 

“Within the framework of the national project, the total area of geological research will be 680,000 square kilometres by 2026. This will make it possible to cover up to 2.2 million square kilometres of the country with geological and geophysical studies. Particular attention is paid to identifying prospective areas for rare and rare-earth metals,” said Serikkali Brekeshev at the press briefing.

As part of the digitalization and automation of processes, work on adoption of the information system "National Data Bank of Mineral Resources" is carried out. 

“Unfortunately, the work has been delayed since 2019 due to long procedures for financing approval and determining a supplier. The system should have been adopted in July 2021. However, when testing the operativity of the information system, its unavailability was shown. According to estimates of KPMG, an independent project office, the project was implemented by only 60%. At the same time, budget funds in the amount of 2.5 billion tenge are on the accounts of the Treasury Committee, because no payment for services was made due to implementation failure by the supplier,” said the Minister of Ecology at the press briefing.

As the head of the Ministry explained, it was decided to implement further this information system within the framework of Kaznedra created unified platform of subsoil use. 

“The platform is interdepartmental, state bodies that work with subsoil users are involved. Now we are working with the Ministry of Digitalization. Until the end of this year, a number of components will be operated in test mode (pilot) (database structure, interactive map, business processes, licence applications for exploration of solid commercial minerals). The issue of implementing this platform is under special control,” noted Brekeshev.

In addition, the National Geological Survey was established in December of the last year in order to provide comprehensive technical support to investors through open access to geological information, As part of the service, it is planned to build a stock storage facility, 2 core storage facilities, repair and modernization of 4 core storage facilities, and setup a data processing center. As per calculations of the Ministry, the level of provision of state infrastructure will reach 100%.

In order to improve investment prospects in geological survey, relevant proposals to amend the applicable legislation are being worked out in conjunction with relevant state bodies. 

Regarding saiga population

Due to the sharp decline in the number of saigas, since 1999, a ban on their use in Kazakhstan was introduced. The ban was subsequently extended until 2023, with the exception of their use for scientific purposes. 

“Let me make a small remark. Saiga is not red-listed. This is a hunting species, but a ban has been enforced on hunting for it,” noted the Minister of Ecology. 

Through the measures taken to organize the state guard of wild animals, it was possible to achieve a significant increase in saigas’ number from 21 thousand in 2003 to 1 million 318 thousand in 2022, which exceeded the maximum number of 1 million 200 thousand animals during the Soviet period.

“The restoration of the saiga population is Kazakhstan’s achievement. 95% of the world saiga population is in our country. Saiga is our national brand. Competent management of this valuable resource is the task that we are currently facing, we must solve it systematically, taking into account all opinions, with mandatory scientific support,” emphasized the minister, speaking at the press briefing.

On behalf of the instructions of the Head of State, a meeting was held under the chairmanship of the minister with the participation of scientific organizations, relevant state bodies and specialized associations to consider new approaches to manage the saiga population.  

Representatives of the Institute of Zoology and the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan suggested that it is necessary to conduct rigorous scientific research on a comprehensive assessment of ecosystems in the range of the saiga population in Kazakhstan to determine the optimal size of each population, effective monitoring and sustainable management.

After the research, alternative ways of managing saiga numbers will be known.

“In turn, the Science Committee of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education is looking for possible ways to fund research. The amount of funding will be determined after the preparation of the technical specification. The Institute of Zoology has begun preparatory works,” said Brekeshev.

As Serikkali Brekeshev said, in any case, saiga populations cannot increase infinitely and stably exist without their management, it means, only with protection and a complete ban on the use of the species. Its number will be limited.

“First, the availability of feed supplies, and second, the periodic mass deaths specific to the saiga for various reasons, including diseases and epizootics, will limit their population growth. After analyzing the dynamics of the number of saigas, since 1980, there have been 11 cases of mass mortality of animals, on average every 3.5 years, in which an average of 34% of the entire population, or 18% of the total population died,” noted the minister.

“Due to the lack of relevant studies, it is not possible to predict a mass death,” Brekeshev emphasized, “therefore, the possibility of a sharp fluctuation in the number of saigas from diseases and steppe murain cannot be ruled out.”

The Ministry of Ecology considers that from the point of view of saiga conservation, it is most expedient to maintain the maximum possible size of its population with their reasonable use, with the continuation of special guard of this species. 

“This kind of population management requires careful preparation. Therefore, together with the Institute of Zoology, we will begin work on rigorous research and after its completion we will inform the public. The work will take us more than just one year,” said the Head of the Ministry of Ecology.

Whereas, in order to resolve conflicts with agricultural producers, the Ministry of Agriculture will consider a development of a methodology for calculating the damage caused by the injury of wild animals and compensation for damage to farmers.

As part of the execution of the President’s instruction, the Minister of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources also reported that work is ongoing to establish a state natural reserve in the Caspian Sea to preserve the seal population, safeguard their habitats and breeding areas. Moreover, the seal is listed in the Red Book.

“The instability of the water level in the Caspian Sea is a natural trend. It also needs to be checked and scientific research should be carried out,” said Brekeshev.

Asked by journalists about the increase in the death of seals in the Caspian Sea, the Minister said that the found carcasses of marine animals were in the stage of severe decomposition, so it was not possible to select tissue for toxicity and virology testings.

“The age could only be determined in 19 of the examined individuals, of which 52% or 10 individuals were young, born in the winter of 2021-2022. The mortality of young seals is explained by their exhaustion, freezing due to falling into the water, the movement of ice with newborn seals into the open sea,” said Brekeshev.

The Minister noted that air samples from the place where the dead seals were found did not contain harmful substances. And there were slight excesses of the maximum allowable concentration of nickel in water samples.

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