Muruntau gold mine located in the Kyzyl Kum Desert of Uzbekistan is one of the world’s biggest open-pit gold mines. It has been in operation for more than 50 years.

Discovered in 1958, the surface mining operations at the giant open-pit gold deposit started in 1967. The mine is 100% owned and operated by Uzbekistan’s state-owned Navoi Mining & Metallurgy Combinat (NMMC).

The gold mine has witnessed four stages of development since it commenced operation, while the fifth development phase is currently underway and is scheduled for completion by 2026.

The open-pit mine measures 3.5kmx3km and the current mining depth is 565m, which is expected to reach 1,000m by the end of mine life.

The Muruntau gold mine is currently producing 38.5 million tonnes of ore a year (Mtpa), which will be increased to 50Mtpa by 2026 as part of the fifth stage development.

Muruntau stage 5 development details

The Muruntau stage 5 development project is the biggest of the 27 projects to be implemented by the NMMC during 2017-2026, as part of the Uzbekistan Government’s $3.63bn investment plan to modernize the country’s mining industry and increase the gold output.

Estimated to cost $733.9m, the stage 5 development calls for underground ore extraction and modernization of the existing mining fleet.

NMMC will fund $445.9m for the stage 5 expansion, whereas $288m will be provided by a loan from the Uzbekistan Fund for Reconstruction and Development.

Muruntau geology and mineralization

The Muruntau gold deposit is located in the Beltau-Kurama volcano-plutonic belt within the   Kyzyl Kum Desert of Uzbekistan, which hosts three tectonic units. Besopan formation, comprised of lower Palaeozoic carbonaceous and sulphidic clastic segments, is the oldest and major tectonic unit in the Kyzyl Kum area.

The arc-shaped Beltau-Kurama volcano-plutonic belt is up to 1,350km-long.

Gold mostly occurs in micro assemblages with tellurides and selenotellurides of Bismuth mineral.

Muruntau gold mine reserves

The Muruntau gold mine, including its historical production, is estimated to hold 170 million ounces of gold reserves and resources.

Mining and processing for Muruntau gold mine

The ore extracted from the Muruntau open-pit mine is brought up to the surface via a steeply-inclined SIC-270/3500 conveyor system for crushing and screening.

With a lifting height of 270m and an angle of 37° degrees, the conveyor system comprises two conveyor lines with a belt width of 2,000mm, and has the capacity to transport 50,000t of ore a day.

The ore is extracted using drilling, blasting, loading and hauling techniques.

The existing mining fleet includes 200 BELAZ-75307 mining dump trucks of 180t to 220t capacity, two Hitachi excavators with 19.4m³ bucket capacity, one Russian-made ECG-15M excavator with 15m³ bucket capacity, and two CMME-20K crawlers-mounted mining excavators. Three RDT-250 drilling rigs are being used for drilling of blast holes.

The ore from the conveyor belt undergoes four-stage crushing and screening at the mine site before being sent for final processing at NMMC’s hydrometallurgical plant (HMP).

Muruntau ore is mostly processed at the 37.3Mtpa HMP-2 with the use of the heap-leaching method.

NMMC has five such hydrometallurgical plants in Uzbekistan.

Contractors involved

Zarafshan Construction Administration (ZCA) was responsible for the civil construction works for the mine.

Alteko was awarded the contract for installing the ore mining-and-transport complex at Muruntau mine.

Novokramatorsk Machinery Plant provided the spare parts and components for the conveyor complex.

Metso was awarded the contract to provide Nordberg LT160 crusher for the mine. It also provided two MP1000 cone crushers, screens, and VSI impact crushers as part of the contract. BELAZ was awarded the contract to supply 220Mt mining dump trucks and BELAZ-76135 water sprinkler.