Geography of Kazakhstan

Information on the geography of Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is located in Central Asia and is the heartland/geographic center of Eurasia. With a surface area of 2,724,900 sq km, Kazakhstan is the 9th largest country in the world, comparable to India and Australia.
Kazakhstan's surface is covered by 26% desert, 44% semi-desert, 6% forest and 24% steppe terrain, in addition to a few other landscapes. The South and East have great wild and mostly untouched mountain landscapes with the Tien Shan and Altai being the most prominent. The highest peak in the country is Khan Tengri at 7,013m above sea level.

The Republic of Kazakhstan lies right in between Europe and Asia, between 45° and 87° of East longitude, 40° and 55° of North latitude. It stretches from the east of the Caspian Sea and Volga plains to the mountanious Altay and from the foothills of Tien Shan in the south and southeast to the West-Siberian lowland in the north.

The size of the territory places Kazakhstan ninth in the world, after Russia, Canada, China, USA, Brasil, Australia, India and Argentina. In the east, north and northwest Kazakhstan borders with Russia (6477 kilometres). In the south it borders with the countries of Central Asia: Uzbekistan (2300 kilometres), Kyrgyzstan (980 kilometres) and Turkmenistan (380 kilometres). In the southeast it borders with China (1460 kilometres). The total extent of Kazakhstan borders is nearly 12,2 thousand kilometres, including 600 kilometres along the Caspian Sea in the west.

Kazakhstan lies in the center of the European and Asian continents, and is approximately equal distance from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. More than a quarter of the land consists of a portion of the gentle steppes that stretch from central Europe to Siberia. The rest of the republic reflects the beauty of forests, mountains, rivers, lakes and reservoirs. The natural landscape is enhanced by thousands of plant and animal varieties found from the northern forest steppes to the high southern mountains.

Kazakhstan has an extreme continental climate. It is characterized by irregular distribution of precipitation in its different regions. In separate years spring arrives from south to north over 1.5 - 2 months. When it is spring sowing in the south, the northern area is covered with snow and the blizzards blow frequently.

The land of Kazakhstan is rich in soils. The greater part of the forest-steppe zone is chernozem, which turns to dark-chestnut, light-chestnut and brown soils in the south. There are gray-soil lands in the deserts and semi-deserts, replaced by the mountain soils there.

Crossing the territory of Kazakhstan from north to south you will see many different climate zones, with all various areas having their own flora and fauna.

The desert of Kazakhstan is an arid area. Rare rainfalls and high temperature in summer and severe and intensely cold weather in winter characterize the climate of the area. Strong winds whip up sand storms. The air is extremely dry and the temperature in summer sharply varies even during a twenty-four hour period.

Mountains rise from the steppes in the south and southeast of Kazakhstan. Ridges of the Tien Shan mountain system stretch for 2,400km. The main ridges are Barlyk, Dzhungar Ala-Tau, Zailii Ala-Tau, Talas Ala-Tau and Ketmen. The highest point of the mountain system is Peak Khan-Tengri at 6,992m. The South Altai is in the east of Kazakhstan. The whole mountain system of Kazakhstan is rich in mineral springs.

There are many rivers and vast reservoirs in Kazakhstan. In the west and southwest, the territory of Kazakhstan is washed by the Caspian Sea for a distance of over 2,340km. The Ural River, along with its tributaries, flows to the Caspian Sea. East of the Caspian, in the sands, lays another huge lake. It is the Aral Sea. The main arteries of fresh water flowing into the Aral Sea are the Amudarya and Syrdarya Rivers. There are nearly 7 thousand natural lakes in the country. Among them is Balkhash Lake in the sands of Central Kazakhstan, Zaisan Lake in the east, Alakol Lake in the southeast, and Tengiz Lake in the center of Kazakhstan.

The largest rivers of Kazakhstan are the Irtysh, Ishim, Ural, Syrdarya, Ili, Chu, Tobol, and Nura.

Kazakhstan is famous for its incalculable mineral wealth. Scientists from developed countries consider Kazakhstan to be sixth in the world in terms of abundance of minerals, though this advantage is not being used effectively. The estimated value of the explored areas is 10 trillion US dollars.

Kazakhstan has enormous valuable natural resources. In short, 99 of the 110 elements on the Mendeleev periodic table are found in the depths of Kazakhstan. For the present time, 60 elements are bieng extracted and used. The estimation of Dr. Daniel Tine, specialist in natural resources and energy from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA), shows that in 1991, during the period of disintegration of the USSR, 90% of the chromium ore, 26% of copper, 33% of lead and zinc, and 38% of tungsten remained on the territory of Kazakhstan. In the former USSR, the share of Kazakhstan in the production of barytes was 82%, phosphorites 65%, molybdenum 29%, bauxites 22%, asbestos 20%, manganese 1З%, and coal 12%. Kazakhstan is one of the richest countries in oil, gas, titanium, magnesium, tin, uranium, gold and other non-ferrous metals production. Currently, Kazakhstan is one of the outstanding producers of tungsten, for which it takes first place in the world; second place in chromium and phosphorous ores; fourth in lead and molybdenum; and eighth in iron ore (16.6 million tons) after Brazil, Australia, Canada, USA, India, Russia and Ukraine. It is no secret that the USA, and the countries of Western Europe, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Japan and China are all interested in Kazakhstan. That is a result of the high potential of the republic in strategic raw resources, first of all, oil and gas deposits.

There are 14 prospective areas on the territory of Kazakhstan. Only 160 deposits of gas and oil, with a combined production of 2.7 million tons, are being explored now. Thus, not all deposits and basins are being exploited. In the case of their capable usage and exploitation Kazakhstan with the oil potential can be among Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Arab Emirates.

The latest pictures from space, as well as surface investigations, show that the tapped oil deposits on the banks of the Caspian Sea in Western Kazakhstan - Tengiz, Prorva, Kalamkas, and Karazhanbas are only the "outskirts" of an enormous oil deposit, the core of which lies in the northern part of the Caspian Sea, where the total quantity of production could reach 3 - 3.5 million tons of oil and 2 - 2.5 trillion cubic meters of gas.

Kazakhstan has a considerable portion of the world's total of copper, polymetallic ores, nickel, tungsten, molybdenum, and other rare metals. Currently, Kazakhstan holds one of the leading places in the world in iron ore, manganese and chromite ore reserves.

Kazakhstan is forecasted to have nearly 300 huge deposits of gold, 173 of which have been investigated. Some of them also produce diamonds of fine quality. Serious investments in the next few years can help Kazakhstan extract 100 tons of gold per year, but for now, only 1% of the deposits are being worked, which keeps Kazakhstan at sixth place in the world. Kazakhstan has more than 100 deposits of coal. The largest are: the Ekibastuz deposit which differs from the high capacity of the brown coal stratums, and Karaganda coal, a basin with reserves of more than 50 million tons of coke coal. During the best years, only 131 million tons of coal were extracted.

Kazakhstan is rich in chemical raw material deposits. There are rich deposits of potassium salts, borates, bromine combinations, sulphates, phosphorites and various raw materials for the varnish and paint industry. Enormous amounts of sulphur ore among the polymetallic ores create the possibility of producing sulphuric acid and other chemical products which are very important for the economy. There are absolute possibilities for the production nearly of all kinds of synthetic oil and chemical products (especially ethylene, polypropylene, rubber), synthetic detergents and soap, food microbiological proteins, chemical fibers and threads, synthetic resin, plastic and cement.

Kazakhstan has rich resources of raw materials for the glass, china and pottery industries. The most rare natural precious stones, and various building and facing decorative materials lie in the depths and mountains of Kazakhstan. Mineral, medical, industrial and radiant water sources can be counted among the countless riches of Kazakhstan, though now they are not widely used.