Orano to support Uzbek uranium expansion plans

28 November 2022

A newly signed tripartite agreement broadens the scope of the collaboration between Orano Mining and its Uzbek partners and lays the foundations for the development of new uranium mines in Uzbekistan.

Nicolas Maes (on the right) with Jamshid Khodjaev, Vice Prime Minister of Uzbekistan (Image: Embassy of Uzbekistan)

The strategic cooperation agreement was signed by Orano Mining, the State Committee for Geology and Mineral Resources of the Republic of Uzbekistan (GosComGeology) and Uzbek state-owned enterprise Navoiyuran during President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev's visit to France on 21 and 22 November.

Orano has partnered with GosComGeology since 2019, when they created a joint venture called Nurlikum Mining to develop uranium exploration and mining activities in the Djengeldi (also written Zhangeldi) area of the province of Kyzylkum. Nurlilkum today has around 50 employees.

The new agreement lays the foundations of an "exclusive strategic alliance for the development of new uranium mines in Uzbekistan, beyond the Djengeldi project" and is a "significant broadening of the scope of the collaboration", Orano said. It also provides for the implementation of several joint initiatives including work on a roadmap for the development of the Djengeldi project, the launch of new joint geological exploration projects, support for the modernisation and transformation of Navoiyuran and the initiation of an exchange framework enabling Uzbek partners to benchmark from the French industrial model in the nuclear fuel value chain.

Nicolas Maes, senior executive vice president of Orano's mining activities, said the agreement reinforces Orano's position as a leading industrial player in the uranium mining sector in Uzbekistan alongside Navoiyuran and "represents the continuity of the group's strategy to gradually increase our presence in the country and contribute to strengthening of economic ties between France and Uzbekistan".

Earlier this year, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzkbekistan called for the country - which according to World Nuclear Association produced an estimated 3500 tU in 2021 - to develop exploration to further increase its uranium reserves and as well as transforming the state uranium mining company.

"With the Presidential resolution of July 14th, 2022, our country has engaged into an ambitious path for the modernisation and ramp-up of our uranium mining industry," GosComGeology Chairman Bobir Islamov said. "Our objective is to double accessible mineral reserves and the rate of annual production by the year 2030." Orano has demonstrated that it is a "credible and reliable partner", he added, and thanks to the strategic arrangement the French company "will contribute effectively to the development of the uranium industry in Uzbekistan" in collaboration with Navoiyuran.

Navoiyuran was created at the beginning of 2022 when Navoi Mining & Metallurgical Combinat - the state-owned body responsible for all uranium mining in Uzbekistan, as well as gold mining and other activities, was split into three independent entities, as provided for under a 2020 presidential decree.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News