French Orano has signed a partnership agreement with Uzbekistan's State Committee for Geology and Mineral Resources (GoscomGeo) to develop uranium mining activities in the Central Asian country. They plan to create a joint venture in the coming months, with 51% held by Orano and 49% held by GoscomGeo.

The agreement was signed on 4 September at Orano Mining's headquarters in Paris by GoscomGeology Chairman Bobir Islamov and Orano Mining President Nicolas Maes (Image: GoscomGeology)

Orano said the two sides are interested in working together particularly in the Navoiy region, in a desert area at the heart of the uranium-rich province of Kyzylkum. They plan to conduct borehole drilling works in the area to improve the classification of resources already identified by GoscomGeo and discover new uranium resources, with work to start in the first half of 2020.

Nicolas Maes, senior executive vice president of Orano's Mining Business Unit, said: "We are happy with and proud of this agreement which is part of the geographical diversification of the group's mining activities and consolidates its presence in Central Asia. It helps to strengthen relations within the framework of cooperation between France and Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan has extensive experience in the mining of uranium deposits by ISR [in situ recovery], and combined with Orano's experience, this gives this project the solid foundations expected to move into new territories and develop innovative solutions capable of improving our productivity and thus meet our customers' expectations."

Bobir Islamov, chairman of GoscomGeo, said: "Uzbekistan is rich in mineral resources and has a developed mining industry. The country mines major deposits such as the Muruntau gold deposit, the Kalmakyr porphyry copper deposit, and the Uchkuduk uranium mines in the province of Kyzylkum. The partnership agreement we are signing with Orano is about consolidating our efforts and carrying out mutually beneficial projects in order to diversify our uranium industry and create new production capacities by combining the expertise and experience of both parties."

According to the 2018 Red Book - a reference on uranium jointly prepared by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency - Uzbekistan has 57,600 tU in reasonably assured recoverable resources and 81,500 tU inferred recoverable resources to USD130/kg U in sandstones, plus 32,900 tU in black shales. The latter have so far not supported commercial production, and foreign expertise is being sought for them. In February 2014 GoskomGeology reported resources of 138,800 tU in sandstones and 47,000 tU in black shales. All significant sandstone roll-front-type uranium resources are located in the Central Kyzylkum area, a 125 km-wide belt extending over a distance of about 400 km from Uchkuduk in the northwest, to Nurabad in the southeast.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Thursday, 05 September 2019
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