Russia out of Uzbek uranium as China enters

10 June 2010

The presidents of China and Uzbekistan have signed deals to increase cooperation in areas including energy. Meanwhile, negotiations on a Russia-Uzbek joint uranium mining venture have folded.


The Chinese and Uzbek presidents afree to deals
A number of agreements on cooperation in energy and high technology areas were signed during a visit by Chinese president Hu Jintao to Uzbekistan, although scant details were provided by the Uzbek government. According to Uzbek president Islam Karimov, long-term cooperation in the field of uranium is a particular area for cooperation. "It's necessary to work in such a way to develop natural uranium and uranium fields," Karimov is quoted as saying by AFP.


The two countries have a long history of cooperation, and Chinese interest free and long-term 'soft' loans have allowed the development of around 20 infrastructure projects worth over $600 million in Uzbekistan, according to the government.


Uzbekistan's uranium mining industry dates back to the 1950s, with "explored and estimated uranium reserves" of 185,800 tonnes according to the country's State Committee for Geology and Mineral Resources (Goskomgeo) in 2008. Prior to 1992, all uranium mined and milled in the country was shipped to Russia, but since 1992 all Uzbekistan's uranium production has been exported to the USA and other countries through Nukem Inc.


Over recent years various Japanese companies have signed uranium exploration and development agreements with Uzbekistan, and in August 2009 Goskomgeo and China Guangdong Nuclear Uranium Corp (CGNURC) set up a 50-50 uranium exploration joint venture, Uz-China Uran, to focus on the black shale deposits in the Boztauskaya area of the Navoi region.


Russia out


Meanwhile, a spokesman for Russia's AtomRedMetzoloto (ARMZ) has confirmed that Russia has withdrawn from negotiations on setting up a uranium mining joint venture with Uzbekistan. According to a Nuclear.Ru report, ARMZ deputy director Alexander Boitsov said at the ATOMEXPO 2010 forum in Moscow that Russia had pulled out of negotiations that had been ongoing since 2006. "The joint mining of uranium in Uzbekistan is in the past now," Boitsov is quoted as saying.


A memorandum of understanding on a joint venture to mine Uzbekistan's Aktau uranium deposit was signed by the two countries in January 2006, but the parties failed to reach a suitable agreement.


According to reports in the Russian press, prime minister Vladimir Putin has called for more intensive efforts to develop the country's own uranium deposits. RIA Novosti reported Putin broached the subject during a meeting with Rosatom head Sergei Kiryenko in the wake of the takeover of Canadian-based Uranium One by ARMZ. The Uranium One acquisition would ensure sufficient uranium production to meet domestic and export needs while Russian reserves were being developed in the longer term, Kiryenko reportedly told the prime minister.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News