Turkmenistan: Belarus Enters Uncharted Mining Territory

Belarusian mining concern Belgorhimprom is to invest in Turkmenistan's first facility to mine and enrich potassium salts for fertilizer compounds, the semi-official news website reported May 4.

In negotiations with state-controlled chemical conglomerate Turkmenkhimiya, the companies agreed to jointly develop a plant that could produce between 1 million and 1.5 million tons of potash fertilizer a year. Turkmenkhimiya representatives said Belgorhimprom was selected for the task because of its "significant scientific and technical potential and large production base in the sphere of mining production and progressive technologies of processing potash ore."

Andrei Grozin, director of the Central Asia Department at the CIS Institute in Moscow, told EurasiaNet that the deal should help Turkmenistan make strides toward diversifying its economy.

"Despite its economic and social problems, Turkmenistan is opening for investors. Definitely the country has a high potential and it is trying to use it. [The Turkmen] chemical industry is still an untouched field, therefore the Belarusians decided to try. It is a very big risk for them. It is still very hard to do business in Turkmenistan," Grozin said.

Turkmen authorities know that future investment may depend on the Belarusian company's success, Grozin continued. "Whether other investors will be willing to come to Turkmenistan and invest money in the chemical industry will depend on the Belarusian success there. And I think the Turkmen government understands this."

Separately, reported May 4 that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko will visit Ashgabat in 2009.



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