The State Committee for Geology and Mineral Resources of Uzbekistan, the NavoiUran state-owned enterprise and French Orano Mining signed a trilateral agreement to expand cooperation in the production and processing of uranium. The deal was signed during the visit of the president Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Paris.
Deputy PM/Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade Jamshid Khodjaev and the Director General of Orano Nicolas Maes attenced the investment agreement exchange ceremony.
Joint venture for exploration and production of uranium in Navoi province, Nurlikum Mining, was set up by the French nuclear giant Orano (51%) and the Uzbek Committee for Geology (49%) in December 2019. The resource base of the enterprise includes three promising sites of "sandstone" type uranium - North and South Jangeldi and Yangiquduq deposits .
The new agreement lays the foundation for an "exclusive strategic alliance" to develop new uranium mines in Uzbekistan, in addition to Jangeldy project, which is currently managed by Nurlikum Mining. This is a significant expansion of cooperation, reflecting the trust established between Orano and its partners in Uzbekistan, the French company said.
The agreement provides for the implementation of a number of joint initiatives, including the outlining a roadmap for the development of the Jangeldi project, the launch of new joint exploration projects, as well as support for Navoiuran in the process of its modernization and transformation. In addition, an exchange mechanism is expected to be launched, allowing Uzbekistan to focus on the French industrial model in the “nuclear fuel value chain”.
Nicolas Maes said that the agreement envisaged a five-year development program with investments worth of "several hundred million euros" (50 million euros at the initial stage). “Real figures will be discussed with our partners. This is a very strategic program not only for our companies, but also for our countries,” he said.
According to him, the parties were also at the initial stage of negotiations on uranium conversion.
Adviser to the Prime Minister, chairman of the Committee for Geology Bobir Islamov said that Orano was currently completing exploration on new areas and starting pilot production in order to "work out the production technology."
“By 2024, they will already receive the first products of uranium oxide. The second stage is immediately the development of a strategy and concept for the formation of added value. In parallel, we are launching a technical audit to identify points for the formation of added value,” he said.
The start of construction of processing facilities is scheduled for March 2024.
3,526 tons of uranium were mined in Uzbekistan in 2021. In 2022-2030, production is planned to be doubled to 7,100 tons.
Until recently, the Navoi Mining and Metallurgical Complex (NMMC) had the exclusive right to mine, enrich and export uranium. In January 2019, the reorganization of NMMC was launched, and separate government entities were set up on its basis. Navoiuran has been mining uranium since 2022.