Natural Resources of Central Asia and Politics of Major Powers


Central Asia is known as backyard and near abroad of Russia. It is earlier part of the soviet union and had a resemblance of their ideology that is why their most of the names end on EV or OV likewise the name of Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov, Nursultan Nazarbayev and etc.

Nowadays people respect and listen those who are financially good and don’t beseech in front of others similarly regions and states are considered when they have natural resources. Major powers interact with those states for their own interest. There is no term friendship exist in reality other than interest.

Central Asia consists of five states named as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Each country possessed enormous natural resources lets starts with Kazakhstan.


Kazakhstan is full of natural resources which includes petroleum, natural gas, coal, iron ore, manganese, chrome ore, nickel, cobalt, copper, molybdenum, lead, zinc, bauxite, gold, and uranium   

(a) Petroleum and Oil Reserves

[1]Kazakhstan estimated petroleum and other liquids costing 1.70million barrels per day as recorded in 2014 according to the sources of United States Energy Information Administration (EIA).

In 1911 historical time when Kazakhstan become oil producer though at that time they didn’t increase production to en-cashed resources. However, after the independence, Kazakhstan’s production exceeds 1 million barrels per day in 2003. Currently, Kazakhstan is considered as world 20th producers. They hold two-thirds of the crude reserves in the Caspian Sea.

As per reports of OGJ, they had crude oil reserves 30 billion barrels in 2014. It ranked second in Eurasia. Tengiz and Karachaganak both produce half of Kazakhstan petroleum liquids.

According to the sources of CIA World Factbook [2]“Crude oil – production: 1.655 million barrels a day (2013 est.), country comparison to the world: 18. Crude oil – exports: 1.406 million barrels a day (2010 est.), country comparison to the world: 9. Crude oil – imports: 119,600 barrels a day (2010 est.), country comparison to the world”

(b) Coal:

Coal is another natural resource which boosts Kazakhstan economically. [3]According to the reports of BMI research, Kazakhstan continues to grow robust coal production, and the government had set goals to achieve the target of 151 million by 2020. [4] There are 33 companies working in coal production. Most of the coal mines are used for coal-fired power in plants or steel mills owned by multinational companies.  Bogatyr is one of the largest coal mines in the northeast of the country. It has reserves of 4.5 billion t and produced 38 million t back in 2014.

The official documents revealed that 75% of the country electricity is produced by Coal-fired power stations. Gas produced 11% hydroelectricity, 10% wind and solar accounts 0.5% in the production of electricity.

(c) Minerals

Kazakhstan is the richest part of Central Asia in terms of diversity of minerals. Kazakhstan is giving tough time other mineral resources countries and possessed [5] ”uranium and chrome ores, copper, lead, zinc, manganese, and tungsten and ranks among the world top ten countries by reserves of hydrocarbons. The republic possesses considerable reserves of iron, vanadium, molybdenum, gold, industrial diamonds, mining-technical (vermiculite, asbestos, wollastonite, bentonites etc.) and mining-chemical (phosphorites, barytes, fluorite, sulphur etc.) raw materials. It has considerable resources of halite, potassium and manganese salts, sodium sulfates and borates. There are huge reserves of a face and ornamental stones, construction materials, mineral and thermal waters.”
[6] Western Kazakhstan is known as the heart of iron ore. It lies in magnetite and sedimentary deposits of brown iron ores of northern Kazakhstan. Total volume amounts billion of tons.

(d) Fisheries

[7] The Caspian Sea is the main source of fisheries for the Central Asian States. Every year more than half a million tons fish were harvested in the sea. [8]“ the main species being sturgeons, beluga, and sterlet; sprat and herring; zander or pike-perch; common carp; bream; catfish; and the Caspian roach. Other commercially important species are the shads: blackback shad, dolginka shad, and Caspian shad;”
Nowadays regional production of fisheries went down dramatically. During 1989-2006 fisheries harvested in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan went down by 60% to 72%. However, countries like Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan felt even more rapidly with 98% to 94% respectively.


Uzbekistan is a landlocked country but if you talk about its natural resources, It is an injustice not to discuss by not highlighting its mineral resources. It includes gold, copper, uranium, coal, tungsten natural gas, and petroleum,

(a) Gold

[9] As per reports of government geology committee state has gold reserves of 5,300 metric tons. The country possessed 33 primary gold deposits. There are two government-owned mining organizations, the Almalyk GMK and the Navoi mining and metallurgical complex. Sixty million metric tons were produced per year by Navoi mining back in 2006. The Maruntau deposits considered as unique in the world due to its high quality of ores and low extraction costs.

(b) Uranium

[10] According to world nuclear association, Uzbekistan is the seventh place in the world where uranium reserves were present and fifth place in its production. Government officials know the worth of uranium in near future and that is why they are investing heavily in it. During 2008-12 government had invested $165 million in expansion and improvement of the quality of uranium industry.

(c) Fossil Fuels

[11] In 2003 there is a decline in the production of oil due to the lack of machinery. However, in 2010, 171 natural gas and oil fields had been discovered. They had enormous hydrocarbon resources which avert them to be reliant on energy supply from foreign sources. Approximately 80% of the gas produced by country was utilized by heating and electricity sectors. 24% of the gas produced by Uzbekistan was exported to Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia.


[12] Tajikistan is the landlocked country and based on rural population. Their main source of earning is agriculture. Due to devastating change in climate, they permit up to single crop per year. They had the lowest agricultural production as compared to other countries of the region.
This country is not much rich in natural resources that major power focus on it Neither they can export because it is considered as an achievement if they fulfill their own needs first, However, government top priority is tackle food security in first place.


Turkmenistan is gifted natural resources land. [13] Their hydrocarbon resources up to 21-23 trillion m3 natural gas and 12 billion tons of oil. It has enormous loads of mining and crude chemicals: sulfur, iodine-bromide water, sodium sulfate, potassium and table salt, carbonate crude for concoction industry, and so forth. Mining crude is exhibited by, kaolin, crude for mineral fiber creation, marble onyx, and so forth. The metal minerals are lead, zinc. The nation has various stores of crude for the building materials production industry.
Oil production level in 1998 was 6.637 million tons, petroleum gas – 13.3 billion m3. Oil generation is for the most part situated in the western piece of Turkmenistan close to the Caspian Sea. The advancement of the huge gas field has started in the east of the nation close to the fringe with Uzbekistan, on the correct bank of the AmuDarya stream. The two substantial oil refineries are situated in the west and in the east of the country.


Kyrgyzstan is a beautiful mountainous country surrounded by 90% through mountains named as Tien Shan. It has ten most beautiful mountain ranges in the world. Mountains are proud of Kyrgyzstan. This attracts tourism in the country.
It is rich in minerals as well. They possessed 7 largest gold deposits of the world and 10% GDP came from gold mines. Coal estimated 27 billion tons and Iron ore reserve consist of 5 billion tons. [14] Kyrgyzstan contains the world’s largest alpine lake issyk kul which is often visited by people from the world for its beauty.

Role Of Major Powers in Central Asia

United States’ Interest in Central Asia

[15] The United States has a competing interest in Central Asia. US strategy can be viewed in propinquity to Russia, China, Iran, India, Pakistan and other key regional actors. Only three simple words can explain United States interest in Central Asia that is security, energy, and democracy,
It is not easy for the US to access the markets of Central Asia, due to the influence of Russia, however, they know how much this region is important geo-politically and economically. Russia controls the majority of oil export routes reserve to Central Asia.
US need to understand the worth of Central Asia and for that, they have to take measures to promote democratic values and free market values. They need to support projects to increase and diversify non-Russian energy transit routes for Central Asian oil and gas.

Chinese and Russian Interests in Central Asia

There is no name of friendship exist anarchic world. All which matters are interests. It is the interests which force two rivals to shake hands or two friends to become a rivalry. This kind of relations changes like a chameleon changes its color.
[16] China’s agenda is to drive their economy at any cost, German expert Gunter Knabe said “China needs raw materials and energy and it is trying to get them wherever it can using whatever means it can,”

However, Russia who has their own raw material is actually seeking for political and military influence. China is investing heavily in Central Asia,[17] they purchase PetroKazakhstan oil company and signed several pipeline agreements.

“Beijing would love to have provinces in Central Asia that deliver oil, gas, and metals to China,” he said. “But Chinese leadership takes a realistic view of Russian interests and those of Central Asian countries.” said by Grosin Russian Institute for CIS Countries.

China and Russia are not rivals but competitors definitely. It is not unpredictable whether competition turns relations towards rivalry or friendship to challenge the United States.

Indian Interest in Central Asia

India is a very clever player and will take any step to counter China and Pakistan anywhere in the world. India has many interests in the Central Asian region some are as follows:

  • Grab the energy resources of the region.
  • Pursue geostrategic and economic goals.
  • To stop all possible means of emerging Muslim block and to look an eye on Pakistan’s influence there.
  • To safeguard Indian Interest, within conflicting interest of different players like USA, Russia, and China. (Iqbal, 2014: 86)

Indian Policy towards Central Asia is directly or indirectly in a position of stopping Pakistan for gaining benefits and to keep a check on Pakistan and to get her share in every step of Pakistan like TAPI gas pipeline and it should end in India. India is also trying to contain China from becoming a big Asian power.

Pakistan interests in Central Asia

[18] Pakistan’s main interest in Central Asia is for the strategic and tactical reasons for the promotion of high-level business and commerce liberalization with each other.
Pakistan wants to have a stronger position in this region in terms of the military services in order to keep India’s less engagement in this region.

For the regional integration as well as for more cooperative security measures with Afghanistan, this is the closest connecting border to Central Asia.
Pakistan’s major interest in Central Asia is that of transferring and movement of goods and services through sea-routes which Central Asia lacks, it would fall down India’s interest in the region.


[1] EIA, “Kazakhstan Energy Profile: Second-Largest Oil Reserves Among Former Soviet Republics – Analysis” published  May, 6, 29017. Accessed date May, 28, 2017.

[2] EIA, “Kazakhstan Energy Profile: Second-Largest Oil Reserves Among Former Soviet Republics – Analysis” published  May, 6, 29017. Accessed date May, 28, 2017.

[3] Jonathan Rowland, “Kazakhstan coal industry set for growth” published June, 6, 2016. Accessed on May 27, 2017.

[4]  Vladislav Vorotnikov, “Kazakhstan prepares to grow coal production” published September, 24, 2013. Accessed date May, 27, 2017.

[5] Central Asian Countries, Geo portal of Kazakhstan, Geological data,

[6] Central Asian Countries, Geo portal of Kazakhstan, Geological data,



[9] 2010 Minerals Year Book, Gold, page 49.1.     2010-uz.pdf

[10] Paul Moore, “Uzbekistan already fifth uranium producer…”published May, 5, 2016. Accessed May 29, 2017.

[11] Azomining, “Uzbekistan mining, minerals and fuel resources” published October, 9,2012. Accessed May 29, 2017.



[14] “Natural resources of Kyrgyzstan which will surprise you” published October, 17, 2014.

[15] Ariel Cohen, “US interest in Central Asia energy security” published in November, 15, 2006,

[16] ”China Russia compete for interest in Central Asia”

[17] Ariel Cohen, “US interest in Central Asia energy security” published in November, 15, 2006,


has done Masters in International Relations from National Defence University, Islamabad. He had also worked in Capital tv as Researcher and Assistant Producer.

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