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Ex-Soviet state to nationalize branch of world’s second-largest steelmaker

Kazakhstan announced the decision after yet another incident at one of ArcelorMittal’s local facilities killed more than 30 miners

Kazakhstan will nationalize the local assets of ArcelorMittal, the world’s second-largest steelmaker, amid safety concerns after a series of deadly incidents at the company’s Kazakh mines, the press service of Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov announced on Saturday.

Astana has reached a preliminary agreement with the shareholders of ArcelorMittal Temirtau (AMT) and is currently readying the transfer of ownership of the company to the Kazakh state. The details of the deal have not yet been made public, and it is unclear how much Kazakhstan plans to pay ArcelorMittal for its local assets.

ArcelorMittal later confirmed the transfer of ownership in a statement on its official website.

Astana has been in talks with ArcelorMittal over the nationalization of its local assets for some time. The government has repeatedly voiced concerns over safety conditions at the mines, where there have been several deadly incidents. The local Emergencies Ministry earlier reported that in 2022 alone it discovered about 2,000 violations of industrial safety measures at AMT facilities. According to estimates by the news website Orda.kz, more than 140 people have died at ArcelorMittal’s facilities in Kazakhstan over the past three decades of its ownership.

In August, after a fire at a conveyor belt at the Kazakhstanskaya mine killed five miners, Smailov said that the question of the ownership of AMT has become “exigent” and pledged that those responsible for the incidents would be brought to justice.

Saturday’s announcement came after yet another incident – a fire at the Kostenko mine in Karaganda Region presumably caused by a gas explosion – trapped more than 250 miners underground. According to the local Emergencies Ministry, as of Sunday morning most workers had been evacuated, but 36 miners were found dead and ten more are still missing.

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It is unclear whether the nationalization agreement between ArcelorMittal and the Kazakh government was signed before or after the latest mine accident.

On Saturday, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev appointed the former deputy head of Karaganda Region, Vadim Basin, as the new head of AMT operations.

The current management of the enterprise has failed,” Tokayev said, adding that AMT “turned out to be the worst attempt in [Kazakhstan’s] history in terms of cooperation between the government and business.” The president also instructed the Cabinet of Ministers to stop investment cooperation with the company until the nationalization is complete.

ArcelorMittal acquired its Kazakh assets in the 1990s and owns four iron ore mines, eight coal mines and a steel plant in the country. The plant, the largest in the country, accounted for roughly 5% of the company’s total production last year.

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