The leading industries in Kazakhstan in 2002 were, in order, oil, coal, iron ore, manganese, chromite, lead, zinc, copper, titanium, bauxite, gold, silver, phosphates, and sulfur. In 2000, Kazakhstan was the eighth-largest producer of manganese ore in gross weight and ninth in manganese content of ore. Kazakhstan was the CIS's leading producer in chromite, lead, and zinc. The country was also a major producer of beryllium, bismuth, cadmium, chromium, ferroalloys, magnesium, rhenium, titanium, and uranium, and produced significant amounts of arsenic, barite (75% of the former Soviet Union's output), molybdenum, natural gas, phosphate rock, and tungsten. Among other minerals, Kazakhstan produced cobalt, magnesium, nickel, vanadium, and all grades of asbestos, as well as the industrial minerals boron, cement, and kaolin. Kazakhstan had commercial reserves of three ferrous metals, 29 nonferrous metals, two precious metals, 84 types of industrial minerals, and coal, natural gas, and petroleum. The eastern region of Kazakhstan was rich in alumina, arsenic, bauxite, beryllium, bismuth, cadmium, chrome, copper, gold, iron ore, lead-zinc, manganese, molybdenum, rhenium, silver, titanium, and tungsten.
Significant increases were reported in the production of practically all ferrous and nonferrous metals, coal, crude oil, and natural gas. In 2000, Kazakhstan increased practically all its mineral product exports in quantity and value. Ferrous metals accounted for 12.9% of export earnings, second to oil and oil products, which accounted for 52.8%. A large percentage of Kazakhstan's reported exports of copper, ferrous metals, ferroalloys, lead, crude oil, oil products, precious metals, and zinc went to countries outside of the CIS. The largest sources of export earnings from outside the CIS were, in order, oil, oil products, steel products, including ferroalloys, copper, precious metals, zinc, cotton fiber, alumina, and lead. Kazakhstan also exported substantial quantities of alumina, coal, iron ore, and lead to CIS countries. The mining sector employed 126,000 workers, about 5% of the workforce, and contributed 36% of industrial output in 1999 and 9% of GDP. By comparison, the oil sector in 2000 accounted for 6.1% of GDP.
Output of metals in 2000 included: marketable iron ore, 13.8 million tons, up from 8.7 in 1998, with an annual capacity of 25 million tons; crude manganese ore, 1.2 million tons, up from 400,000 in 1997 (the design capacity of the country's three mining enterprises was 2.55 million tons per year of crude ore, and the reserve base was 600 million tons); chromite, 2.61 million tons, up from 1.19 in 1996; lead, 39,300; mined zinc, 322,100, up from 159,400 in 1996; mined copper, 430,200, up from 250,100 in 1996, due to commissioning of new mines in Karaganda and Zhezkazgan; bauxite, 3.73 million tons; mined gold, 28,171 kg, up from 12,500 in 1996; silver, 927,110, up from 467,700 in 1996; alumina, 1.2 million tons; and mined tin, 218,863 tons, up from 119,643 in 1999.
Copper mining began to recover after foreign companies acquired management rights to the nation's copper producers, most notably the Zhezqazgan complex, which also included concentration, smelting, and refining facilities. Kazakhstan had supplied more than 95% of chromite production for the former USSR through the Donskoy mining and beneficiation complex at Khromtau. Iron ore found near Rudnyy supplied the iron and steel plants in the Russian Urals region as well as plants at Karaganda and Temirtau.
In 2000, the government announced that it intended to sell part of its remaining shares in a number of mining and metallurgical companies. A large percentage of mining and metallurgical enterprises were under the control of foreign managers, who, in exchange for a share of the profits and potential ownership rights, were investing in modernizing the enterprises, increasing output and exports, decreasing costs, and upgrading technology to meet environmental standards. The rapid development of the mining and mineral-processing industries, combined with other factors, resulted in extensive air, water, and soil pollution, natural resource depletion, and the generation of radioactive waste.