Azarga evaluating situation after Kyrgyzstan uranium ban

07 May 2019

Azarga Uranium Corp has suspended activities at the Kyzyl Ompul uranium project in Kyrgyzstan, the company confirmed on 3 May - the day after the Kyrgyz parliament voted to ban uranium mining and exploration in the country.

Drilling at Kyzyl Ompul (Image: Azarga)

"The Company understands that the Kyrgyz Republic's parliament has voted to ban uranium exploration and mining in the country. The Company further understands that before this ban can be implemented into law, a strict lawmaking process must be followed, requiring further parliamentary readings and the President's sign-off of the proposed law. The Company has not received official notification from the State Committee on Industry, Energy and Subsoil Use or the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic that the Kyzyl Ompul Uranium Project licence has been revoked; however, activities at the non-core Kyzyl Ompul Uranium Project have been suspended," Azarga said.

Canada-based Azarga's 70%-owned subsidiary UrAsia owns a 100% interest in Kyzyl Ompul. However, Azarga's strategic focus is on advancing its Dewey Burdock project and developing its portfolio of US uranium assets, it said.

Kyrgyzstan's Supreme Council on 2 May passed the resolution to ban uranium exploration and mining in the country. Exceptions will in some cases be made for the reclamation of uranium from historic tailings. First Deputy Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic Kubatbek Boronov also announced the creation of an interdepartmental commission to monitor the environmental impact of activities carried out on the Kyzyl Ompul licence area.

Several overseas companies currently hold uranium exploration licences issued by the Kyrgyz government. Azarga's current licence, under which it is permitted to explore for uranium, is valid until 31 December 2020.

Kyrgyzstan was a significant uranium mining area during the Soviet era. The Mailuu-Suu district, in the Jalal-Abad Province in western Kyrgyzstan, between 1946 and 1967 produced more than 9000 tonnes of uranium from carbonate ore, and the Kara Balta Mining Combine was set up in the 1950s to mine and treat ore. Uranium mining ceased in 1997, although the Kara Balta mill continued toll-milling operations until 2015. It formally closed in February 2016. Very little remediation was done before or after the closure of the mining and milling operations.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in 2015 at the request of the European Commission set up a fund to deal with radioactive contaminated material resulting from Soviet-era uranium mining and processing in the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

The uranium deposit/prospects of the Kyzyl Ompul project are about 125 kilometres east of the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek. Total historic resource estimates for the entire Kyzyl Ompul licence area range from 42.23 to 51.33 million pounds U3O8 (16,244-19,744 tU). These estimates are not NI 43-101 compliant, but an April 2014 NI 43-101 technical report converted 7.5 million pounds U3O8 of historical estimates at the Kok Moinok deposit to an NI 43-101 compliant resource.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News