To purchase this space contact Gordon

South Korea has struck deals with Kazakhstan to allow its firms to explore for critical minerals in the Central Asian state, it said on Wednesday, as the home to major chip producers and leading carmaker Hyundai moves to diversify its supply chains.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is on a state visit to Kazakhstan following a similar trip to Turkmenistan this week, and ahead of a visit to Uzbekistan.

Wednesday’s memorandum of understanding on critical minerals supply chains will allow South Korean companies to take part in exploration for lithium, chrome, uranium and rare earth development, the industry ministry said.

South Korea is home to semiconductor producers and the world’s fifth-largest automaker Hyundai Motor Group, which is making a push for electrification. Stable supply of critical minerals is considered crucial, as the country lacks natural resources, and it is one of the world’s largest energy buyers.

Speaking after his summit with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in Astana, Yoon said the deal had been struck “as we pursue becoming a global pivotal state”, with Kazakhstan’s growth policy “more important than ever as we face complex global crises and uncertainty”.

During Yoon’s visit this week South Korea and Turkmenistan also signed agreements on energy resources development, which his office has said could lead to about $6-billion in orders.

They included South Korean builder Hyundai Engineering signing agreements with Turkmenistan’s state gas company and chemical company.

The two countries will cooperate on the additional development of Galkynysh gas field and the restoration of a polymer plant in Turkmenistan, Hyundai Engineering said in a statement late on Tuesday.

Earlier this month, South Korea hosted its first summit with the leaders of 48 African nations, looking to tap the continent’s mineral resources and potential as an export market.