Kazatomprom has held an opening ceremony for the first uranium mine to come into operation within the framework of a cooperation agreement on nuclear power between Kazakhstan and China.
The ceremony at the Irkol mine was attended by Kazakh dignitaries including Atomic Energy Committee chairman Timur Zhantikin and Kazatomprom president Moukhtar Dzhakishev, and by a high-level Chinese delegation led by Zhang Guobao, vice chairman of the China's National Development and Reform Commission and director general of the country's National Energy Administration, CGNPC chairman Qian Zhimin.
A series of agreements between China and Kazakhstan culminating in the cooperation agreement signed by the country's prime ministers in October 2008 have seen Chinese companies take interests in Kazakh uranium mines, thereby securing a large portion of China's nuclear fuel needs. China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) also has an agreement to invest in a Kazakh uranium mine.
The opening comes only days after the Kharasan 1 project, for which Kazatomprom linked up with Japanese and Canadian companies, was formally opened by Kazakh prime minister Karim Massimov.
The Irkol in-situ leach project is expected to reach its production capacity of 750 tonnes of uranium per year within 12 months, with plans for 500 tonnes to be produced in 2009. The mine is forecast to operate for 25 years. It is operated by the Semizbai-U joint venture under a 2008 strategic partnership agreement between Kazakh national atomic company Kazatomprom and the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Co (CGNPC). Semizbai-U is 49% owned by CGNPC, with Kazatomprom holding the remaining 51%.