Officially known as the Republic of Tajikistan, Tajikistan is a country located in Central Asia. The landlocked mountainous country has an area of about 55,300 square miles (94th in the world) and a population of about 8.7 million people (97th in the world). Four countries border Tajikistan and they are Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and China. The capital city, which also doubles as the largest city in the country is Dushanbe. Economically, the country has had to deal with a number of challenges such as corruption that have also curtailed the exploitation of natural resources. These natural resources include natural gas and petroleum, minerals (such as gold and silver), and water.
Mining in Tajikistan
The country has a number of minerals such as gold, aluminum, silver, and many more. In total, at least 400 mineral deposits belonging to around 70 minerals have been found in the country. In addition to all this, there are some uranium deposits that were mined during the Soviet times only. The mining of gold in the country is extremely crucial to the world market. Estimates from the Tajik Academy of Sciences place the gold deposits at a whopping 429.3 tons. Some of the major gold mines are located in the region to the southwest of an area known as Gharm, which is in the Pamir Mountains. In the Gharm region, there are gold mines in three main places namely the Yakhsu Valley, Jilau, and Chkalovsk.
Over time, the mining of gold has improved. For example, 1996 saw a production of about 2,425 pounds of gold while the production stood at about 6,000 pounds of gold in 2000. All this improvement began after gaining independence from Russia back on September 9, 1991. The period between the later stages of the 1990s and the early stages of the 2000s was generally turbulent for the sector. For example, hostilities back in 1996 adversely affected operations. However, as of 2011, the country produced between 1.3 and 1.5 tons of gold following major investments from other countries like China.
Aside from gold, the mining of aluminum is crucial to the economy of the country. The major firm in this sector is known as the Tajikistan Aluminum Company (TALCO) and runs one of the world’s biggest aluminum mining operations. In a year, the firm manages to produce about 517,000 tons of aluminum after factoring in the operational costs. Of this amount, about 5,000 tons is consumed locally while the bigger chunk is exported to other countries. However, the processing of this metal depends wholly on imported ore.
Looking at silver, Tajikistan has the world’s second largest deposits of the mineral. Estimates place the ore at a massive 1 billion tons. The same ore also contains significant amounts of zinc and lead. In the Soviet era, one of the major reserves was located at Big Kon-i Mansur. However, geologists state that the estimates done by the Soviets were conservative, which means that the actual deposits in the country may be even more than those of the leading country; Australia.
Other minerals that were mined included mercury in the northern region of Dushanbe, antimony at places like Dzhizhikrutskoye, cadmium, and arsenic. In addition, the country is rich in rare earth metals such as gallium, thallium, selenium, indium, and germanium. Construction materials such as limestone and granite are located on the northern side of the country.
Petroleum and Natural Gas
Aside from metal minerals, the country also has some deposits of fossil fuels. Natural gas is mainly obtained from places such as the Vakhsh Valley and the Gissar Valley. Both of these lie in both the northern and southern parts of the country. In the early stages of the 2000s, the estimated natural gas reserves stood at 200 billion cubic feet. In 2000, the production of natural gas was 1.4 billion cubic feet. However, this amount is too small to sustain the country, which is why Tajikistan has to import about 95% of its gas needs.
Another type of fossil fuel, brown coal, is produced in the Leninabad region in places such as Shurab. The coal has been a major contributor to the economy of Tajikistan. In recent years, the production of hard coal has seen an increase to 31,200 tons while brown coal has increased to 15,200 tons. Foreign investment comes from several countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Germany, and other countries. This investment is low due to the proximity of the country to Afghanistan.
The country has a number of rivers and lakes that constitute its vast water resources. Lakes cover about 2% of the nation and include Lakes Sarez (Pamir), Shadau Lake (Pamir), and Iskanderkul (Fann Mountains). Major rivers include the two major rivers in Central Asia namely the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya. Other rivers include the Kofarnihon (Kafirnigan) and Obihingou. These resources serve a number of purposes including the provision of drinking water as well as the production of hydroelectric power. The water resources are so vast that only the US and Russia produce more hydroelectric power than Tajikistan.
In the country, about 76% of the power needs are satisfied by hydroelectric sources. Some of the power is exported to other countries although the country also imports power. In 2000, Tajikistan exported about 3,908 million kWh of electric power while it imported about 5242.3 million kWh in the same year. The amount of power imported went up after a major drought back in 2000, which led to a drop in the water levels of water that serviced the hydroelectric power station of Norak, which is the largest in Central Asia.
In addition to Norak, the country has plans for coming up with an even bigger station at Shurob, which is going to have a capacity of about 750 MW. Another facility of similar size is also in the workings at Kaphtarguzar, which is along the Garm Valley’s Obikhingou River. At Dashtijum, the government is planning a massive project that dwarfs both of these. The new project, which will be serviced by the Panj River close to the Afghanistan border, will have a capacity of around 4,000 MW.