Korea and Kazakhstan will form a strategic partnership on energy and resources, the government said Wednesday.
The move comes as the Central Asian nation is seeking to build up to five nuclear power plants while Korea is in desperate search of rare earths whose demand is expected to rise in the next few years.
Minister of Knowledge Economy Choi Kyung-hwan met with Aset Issekeshev, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and New Technology of Kazakhstan, Tuesday during his visit to Astana and agreed to sign an inter-government agreement on co-establishing a coal-fired steam power plant in Balkhash.
In addition to the Balkhash Project, the two countries have also agreed to collaborate further in exploring new mines, uranium and other rare metals.
Kazakhstan has been showing interest in working with Korea regarding energy since its President Nursultan Nazarbayev visited Seoul in April.
President Lee Myung-bak and his Kazakh counterpart have discussed the possibility of joint projects to mine uranium and develop nuclear reactors at the time.
“The minister’s visit to the Central Asian country is meaningful in that it has elevated the level of the two nations’ strategic partnership from developing oil fields to resources, which will bring local firms more opportunities to operate there,” the ministry said.
Firms particularly in industries such as information technology and energy will benefit largely from the move, the ministry said.
The $380 million-Balhash project is the largest one that the two nations have collaborated on so far, for which 70-80 percent of the financing will be managed locally.
The IGA, in that sense, is expected to make the process much easier for the Korean consortium led by Korea Electric Power Corp. and Samsung C&T Corp., the ministry said.
Construction for the plant will begin in 2011 and is projected to be completed in 2016 for commercial operation.
Alongside the minister-level meeting, an economic mission of 50 held a business forum in Astana where members discussed ways for which firms from the two countries can cooperate further in new technologies and construction.
By Koh Young-aah (email@example.com)