home Demand, Supply, U Uzbekistan’s Uranium Deposits Attract Foreign Investors

Uzbekistan’s Uranium Deposits Attract Foreign Investors

Representatives of the China Nuclear Uranium Corporation (CNUC) met with the general director of state company Navoiuran, Jamal Faizullaev, to discuss the possibility of mining black shale uranium at the Jantuar and Ma’danli deposits in the Navoi region of Uzbekistan. Samples have already been taken from the deposits to complete geological studies.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Uzbekistan ranks seventh in the world in terms of uranium reserves, and fifth in terms of uranium production. Until 1991, all uranium mined and processed in Uzbekistan was shipped to Russia, but since 1992, virtually all Uzbek uranium has been exported to the U.S. and other countries through Nukem Inc. In 2008, South Korea’s Kepco signed agreements to purchase 2,600 tons of uranium over six years through 2015 for about $400 million. In May 2014, China’s CGN agreed to purchase $800 million worth of uranium through 2021.

In November 2023, state-owned Navoiuran and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) signed a memorandum of cooperation on uranium mining and processing. CNNC is the main investor in Chinese nuclear power plants. The company currently has 22 operating units, six units under construction, and is the largest uranium producer in China.

Besides Chinese investors, Uzbek uranium reserves continue to attract other major market players. In January 2006, Russia’s Techsnabexport, a subsidiary of JSC Atomredmetzoloto, signed a memorandum of understanding with Navoi Mining and Metallurgical Combine (NMMC) and the State Committee on Geology (Goskomgeologiya) to establish a joint venture for uranium mining at the (JV) Aktau deposit. The JV was originally scheduled to begin operations in late 2006, but after four years of negotiations, no agreement was reached, and Russia withdrew in mid-2010.

In October 2007, Japan’s Itochu Corporation agreed with NMMC to develop technology for the extraction and processing of black shale uranium  at the Rudnoye deposit. In mid-2008, Mitsui & Co. signed a basic agreement with Goskomgeologiya to establish a JV for geological research in the development of black shale uranium resources at the Zapadno-Kokpatasskaya mine, 300 km northwest of Navoi. Then, in mid-2009, Goskomgeologiya and the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) signed an agreement on exploration for uranium and rare-earth metals in the Navoi region with the stipulation that JOGMEC receive 50% of the extracted raw materials. In August 2013, JOGMEC received a license for uranium exploration at two sandstone deposits for a period of five years.

During the November 2023 state visit by French President Emmanuel Macron to Uzbekistan, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev held a meeting with Orano Chairman, Claude Imoven. The meeting discussed the prospects of cooperation with the French company in the field of geological exploration and uranium mining in Uzbekistan. France’s Orano is the world’s largest producer of uranium and nuclear fuel, with assets totaling 29 billion.

Uzbekistan’s uranium production increased to 3,560 tons in 2022 from 2,385 tons in 2015. Furthermore, President Mirziyoyev has approved an ambitious uranium production target of 7,100 tons in 2030.

Source: The Times of Central Asia