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Azer Shukurov: “The mining industry in Azerbaijan has great potential”
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Interview with the Director of Azinterpartlayis-X LLC Azer Shukurov on the magazine “Geostrategiya”

Mr. Shukurov, first of all, we thank you for having time for interview despite your busy schedule and want to start the questions immediately in order to not distract you from your work.

- Mr. Shukurov, we would like to learn your opinion on the present state and problems of the mining industry in Azerbaijan.

- First, I thank you the magazine “Geostrategiya” for its attention to the mining industry, its development, problems and prospects and attaches an importance to delivering the relevant opinion of experts to public. It is proved by the combination of the name of your magazine and of your topics. As for your question, I can say that the mining industry is not a new industrial field inAzerbaijan. The mining industry has a rich history inAzerbaijan. The copper-mining industry developed in Gadabay-Dashkasan in the 1850s. In 1855, Kiryakov and Mekhov constructed a small plant and produced copper there. At that time, a second copper smelting plant was launched in Dashkesen. That plant was a small enterprise. But the breakthrough in this field was achieved after the arrival of the Siemens Brothers inAzerbaijan. In 1864, the Siemens Brothers bought the plant in Gadabay, built a new one and spent large amount money. Their plant was constructed on the basis of the modern technology of that time and played a crucial role in meeting copper demand of the tsaristRussia. My short excursion into history was aimed at noting that there is a basis of this field inAzerbaijan. As for the current state of the mining industry, I do not agree with the claims that it is completely out of attention. Certain things are being done in this field. However, the work being done does not meet requirements of the mining industry. The mining industry inAzerbaijanhas great potential. Unfortunately, the attention paid to the oil and gas industry is not paid to this field. The mining industry does not lag behind to the oil and gas industry due to all parameters. It is quite possible to raise the level of the domestic mining industry to global scale. Of course, there are many problems in this field. It will be wrong to claim our mining industry is advanced as that of inRussia,France,Germany,Canadaand other developed countries. Yet we enjoy great opportunities to develop the mining industry. At least, we enjoy possess relevant historical tradition, Soviet experience and most importantly, rich natural resources.

- Mr. Shukurov, there is an interesting question. DoesAzerbaijanpossess staff potential in this field? Does your company take part in training of experts?

- You touched on a very interesting and important point. Foreseeing the prospects of the mining industry, the national leader Heydar Aliyev paid a special attention to education of the Azerbaijani youth in different constituent republics of theUnionduring the Soviet period. I was educated on this specialty at the Moscow Mining Institute at that time. One should not forget thatAzerbaijanpossessed Union-wide significant ore mines like Dashkesen, Gadabay and needed professional specialists to exploit those deposits. Therefore, training of qualified specialists and their activity in the mines were among the most important aspects.Azerbaijanexperienced decline in this field following the collapse of theSoviet Union. As we did not have the opportunities possessed by the Union and the domestic mining industry declined, training of experts became a secondary issue. However, this issue gained importance once again after Azerbaijan earned independence. At present, mining specialists are educated at the Azerbaijani State Oil Academy. But in my opinion, the training of specialists can not be considered acceptable. Practice plays a more important role in our field rather than theory. Today`s staff is completely far from practice. As a company operating in this field, we are very interested in training of specialists and have taken relevant steps in this direction. We have submitted our proposals on providing scholarships to and organizing practice for bright students. After a comprehsive study, we concluded that there is a big gap between theory and practice in this field. Unless this problem is settled promptly, we will feel its troubles more in future. This gradually developing industry will be crucial in future if not now. I want especially to mention the contribution of the national leader Heydar Aliyev to the development of the mining industry in Azerbaijan. At that time, Azerbaijan was the only constituent republic, whose students with good examination records could get educated at any institution specialized in this field in the Soviet Union. Other constituent republics did not enjoy such a privilege. It should be noted that this privilege applied to all scientific fields and was a special contribution of Heydar Aliyev to preparation of qualified specialists in our country.

- Mr. Shukurov, how would you describe the geography of the mining industry inAzerbaijan?

- This is a fact that Azerbaijan possesses rich natural resources. Of course, the first place among them is occupied by oil and gas. But the mining industry has great potential in our country. Certain job was done for exploitation of these resources during the Soviet time. However, the lack of the necessary investment in the post-Soviet period led to decline in this field. Azerbaijan enjoys vast reserves of raw materials for non-ferrous and ferrous metallurgy. Dashkesen owns large alunite and iron ore deposits, the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic tungsten- molybdenum, lead-zinc and gold deposits. The existence of large reserves of gold and mercury in Kalbajar-Lachin has been known since the Soviet period. These deposits were partly developed at that time. The Zod deposit in Kalbajar should especially underlined. They are currently ravaged by the Armenian aggressors. Projects related to the development of gold deposits play a crucial role in the present economic life of our country. Gold deposits have been discovered by our geologists in Tovuz, Gadabay, Dashkesen, Balaken and Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic. I should also note the gold deposit discovered in Goygol. I can confidently state that more deposits will be found. This process can simply be accelerated by involving the private sector operating in this field in the initiatives of our state.

- Mr. Shukurov, you noted that the mining industry in Azerbaijan has promising prospects. What role can the Azerbaijani economy play in the development of the mining industry?

- Azerbaijan is known to be among the gold producing countries. Concrete results have been achieved, although the present volume of gold produced is small. The main issue is that Azerbaijan has been introduced to the world community as a promising country in this field; this fact has been proved by our geologists. However, the strength of domestic economy is not determined by only richness, exploitation or processing of gold reserves. The development of  non-ferrous and ferrous metallurgy is more promising for domestic economy; these resources are sufficient enough in Azerbaijan. Here I would like to touch on one point. A chain economy was established during the Soviet time. For example, iron ore extracted from mines in Dashkesen were dispatched to Rustavi, processed there, developed into a product in Russia, and sold in other republics of the Soviet Union. Today the business is completely different. As an independent republic, we enjoy the opportunity to exploit and refine our resources, produce and export our products. I want especially to underline the importance of non-ferrous and ferrous metallurgy. The refining industry of the non-ferrous and ferrous metallurgy in Azerbaijan is developing. An aluminum plant is operating in Ganja, the metallurgy factory by President Ilham Aliyev will start its operation in near future. The natural resources of Azerbaijan are not limited by only iron ore, gold, aluminum, cobalt, copper and others. The territories of Kazakh, Dashkesen, Fizuli and other districts possess rich limestone deposits. The role of limestone in construction and food processing is irreplaceable. The purpose of my notes is to create a picture of possible positive influence of the development of heavy industry on the economy of Azerbaijan. Dashkesen, Gadabay, Shamkir, Lerik, Yardimli owns rich deposits of marble and granite. We import marble and granite from abroad though. Why must we import marble and granite from other countries if we have potential even to export them from our country? By developing the abovementioned industrial fields we can achieve many successes. First, unemployment is almost completely eliminated in the mentioned economic regions, an impetus is given to large-scale development of heavy industry in Azerbaijan, the bettering welfare of our people is sustainably improved and most importantly, the power of manat is secured in the background of the development of the domestic economy. (To be continued).

Interviewed by I.Gasimov

Azinterpartlayis-X LLC was established by experts with great experience in the mining industry. During the years of its existence the company has participated in several large projects. At present, it takes part in the Gadabay gold ore deposit, construction of the Shamkirchay reservoir and some other projects. The projects are carried out by highly qualified specialists trained and certified in the CIS and European countries. Having achieved the formation of strong staff potential, Azinterpartlayis-X LLC plans to take an active part in new mining projects. The company benefits from the economic reforms and contributed to the development of our country. Azinterpartlayis-X LLC is gradually expanding the potential of its staff. The company has obtained the certificates ISO 9001;2008, ISO 1400;2004 and OHSAS 1800;2007 inaccordance with international standards. In December 2011, the company received Azeri Buisness Award 2011 for its achievements in implementation of mining works.