Russian and Armenian representatives have signed an agreement setting up a joint venture to prospect for and mine uranium and other minerals in Armenia and plan to start prospecting activities by the end of 2008. Russia is also in the throes of setting up a similar joint venture with Namibia.
Today's agreement, signed by Armenia's minister of environmental protection Aram Harutiunyan and Vadim Zhivov, director general of AtomRedMetZoloto OJSC (ARMZ), follows on from the signature of a cooperation memorandum in February. ARMZ is owned by AtomEnergoProm, itself part of Rosatom, Russia's state nuclear energy corporation, and the signing ceremony took place in the Armenian capital Yerevan during a visit by Rosatom deputy director general Nikolay Spassky.
According to Rosatom, the joint venture company will be registered during the next three months, after which it will be granted a licence to carry out prospecting activities on Armenian territory. ARMZ, working with the All-Russian Research Institute of Chemical Technologies (VNIIHT) and Geo-economy CJSC of Armenia, has already drafted a prospecting program for the joint venture, and is planning to start prospecting for uranium in the Syunik region of southern Armenia by the end of 2008. Preliminary estimates based on archive material on uranium reserves from the Soviet-era and other reconnaissance work suggest Armenian uranium reserves are around 10,000 tonnes, Rosatom says. Earlier reports have suggested figures ranging from 30,000 to 60,000 tonnes.
Next stop: Namibia?
ARMZ has also recently signed a memorandum on establishing a joint venture for uranium exploration and development in Namibia. A Nuclear.Ru report said the memorandum, between IC Arlan, a Russian investment company, VTB Capital (Namibia), a Russian-Namibian joint company, and ARMZ, envisages a joint venture that would be 75%-owned by IC Arlan, with the remainder equally shared by ARMZ and VTB.
VTB would contribute two existing Namibian uranium mining licences to the venture, with ARMZ carrying out exploration and IC Arlan providing funding, according to IC Arlan board member Dmitri Razorenov. Speaking to Nuclear.Ru, Razorenov said that the joint venture would be operational by June 2008. The deposits for which VTB holds licences are at Spitzkoppe in southern Namibia, with probable uranium reserves of 3,000 tonnes.
Namibia is home to about 7% of the world's uranium reserves and has two operational uranium mines, both run by overseas companies. The Namibian government suspended issuing new uranium exploration licences in early 2007 to allow it to reconsider its policies on the resource, but according to Razorenov the new company would apply for new licences as soon as the moratorium is lifted.