(Reuters) - Kazakhstan plans to launch its third gold refinery by the end of next year, adding enough capacity to ensure the Central Asian country can refine all of the gold it produces for supply to the central bank, government and mining officials said on Wednesday.
State-owned mining company Tau-Ken Samruk will run the new $38 million refinery, construction of which began this week, in the capital Astana. The plant will have capacity to refine 25 tonnes of gold a year.
"It will handle all of the gold that we currently ship abroad, mainly to Switzerland, for refining," First Deputy Industry Minister Albert Rau told reporters.
Kazakhstan, Central Asia's largest economy, plans to increase gold production to 70 tonnes by 2015. It refined 16.6 tonnes of gold last year, official data show, although it also exported some of its production for refining.
There are currently two gold refineries in Kazakhstan. One, operated by Glencore-owned miner Kazzinc, refines ingot to international standards, while copper miner Kazakhmys refines gold to meet Kazakhstan's domestic standards.
The new refinery will help the central bank to achieve its aim of augmenting gold reserves. The bank has committed to purchasing Kazakhstan's entire bullion output until at least 2014 or 2015.
Bisengali Tadzhiyakov, the bank's deputy chairman, said on June 13 that it planned to boost the share of gold in its gold and foreign currency reserves to 20 percent from 14-15 percent, without giving a timescale.
He said the central bank, which is cutting its exposure to the euro, would purchase 24.5 tonnes of gold this year: 20 tonnes from Kazzinc and 4.5 tonnes from Kazakhmys.
Rau said the new refinery would "process all of the gold that Kazakhstan produces today, with the exception of Kazzinc and Kazakhmys, which have their own refineries".
He said capacity at the Astana refinery could be increased to handle larger quantities of gold as mining increases in future.
Kazakhstan produced 8.4 tonnes of refined gold in the first five months of 2012, the latest data from the State Statisticcs Agency shows.