ASTANA, April 19 (Reuters) – Kazakhstan is looking to open up new markets for its alumina exports, concerned U.S. sanctions on Russian aluminium giant Rusal could hit business and jobs. Eurasian Resources Group (ERG), a company part-owned by the Kazakh government, produces 1.5 million tonnes a year of alumina, which is used to make aluminium, selling two-thirds to Rusal. Timur Toktabayev, deputy minister for investments and development, said on Thursday the cabinet was looking at various options to avoid local plant stoppages and open up new markets. “It is hard to say (where Kazakh alumina might go instead of Russia) because contracting is mostly done early in the year,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a mining conference. “We must look at the opportunities. The price (of aluminium) has gone up and therefore I think global smelting volumes will increase, there will be fresh demand and we will find something.” Higher price, he said, could also make it feasible to ship Kazakh alumina to markets further away. ERG, which was preparing to gradually boost its own smelting capacity in anticipation of the Rusal contract expiring at the end of 2019, has not replied to questions regarding the impact of Rusal sanctions on its operations.