The Asia Miner

SEP-OCT 2014

The ASIA Miner - Reporting Important Issues to Mining Companies in the Asia Pacific Region

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34 | ASIA Miner | September/October 2014 Central Asia THE availability of uranium resources around the world is a critical vari- able in the long-term viability of the nuclear industry. Central Asia has become a key supplier of uranium to the global market, and shows every sign of continuing to do so for the foreseeable future. The current low price of uranium ore has suppressed activity in terms of prospecting for new resources and developing new mines. However, there is good potential for production to grow further in Central Asia, particularly as the global capacity of nuclear energy rises to meet the world's increasing demand for clean, secure and affordable energy. Kazakhstan has led the growth in uranium supply in Central Asia. It has been an important source of uranium for more than 50 years. Uranium exploration started in 1948 with economic mineralization found in several parts of the country which supported various mines exploiting hard rock deposits. Some 50 uranium deposits are known in six uranium provinces. Reasonably assured resources plus in- ferred resources to US$130/kg uranium were 651,000 tonnes at 2009. It has 12% of the world's uranium resources. In 1970 tests on in situ leach (ISL) mining commenced and were successful, which led to further exploration being focused on two sedimentary basins with ISL potential. Up until 2000 twice as much uranium had been mined in hard rock deposits as from sedimentary ISL but almost all production is now from ISL. Uranium production in Kazakhstan has increased substantially over the last decade. In 2009 it became the world's leading uranium producer with almost 28% of global production, then 33% in 2010, 36% in 2011, 36.5% in 2012 and 38% in 2013, producing about 22,550 tonnes. Further increases are planned through to 2018. Of its 17 mine projects, fve are wholly-owned by Kazatomprom and 12 are joint ventures with foreign equity holders, and some of these are producing under nominal capacity. In 2012, 8863 tonnes was attributable to Kazatomprom itself – 15% of world production, putting it slightly ahead of Areva, Cameco and ARMZ. Kazatomprom has forged major strategic links with Russia, Japan and China, as well as taking a signifcant share in the international nuclear company Westinghouse. Canadian and French companies are involved with uranium mining and other aspects of the fuel cycle. Kazatomprom this year said that 55% of Kazakh uranium produc- tion was exported to China. Kazakhstan has a major plant making nuclear fuel pellets and aims eventually to sell value-added fuel rather than just uranium. It aims to supply 30% of the world fuel fabrication market by 2015. Kazakhstan also has a history of using nuclear energy. A single Russian nuclear power reactor operated from 1972 to 1999, gener- ating electricity and for desalination. The use of nuclear energy in the future is under consideration by the Kazakh government. The has had some uranium mining activities in the past. The Mailuu-Suu district in Jalal-Abad province in the republic's south was a signifcant uranium mining area for example. But there has been little sign of activity in recent years. has substantial known uranium resources and geologi- cal prospectivity for more. There is currently no uranium mining in Mongolia but uranium was produced from the Dornod deposit by Russian interests until 1995. Since 2008 Russia has re-established its position in developing north-eastern Mongolian uranium deposits. According to the 2011 Red Book, Mongolia has 74,000 tonnes in reasonably assured resources plus inferred resources, to US$130/ kg uranium. However, geological indications reported in the Red Book suggest that uranium resources could be 1.47 million tonnes. The broader mining sector is Mongolia's single largest industry, ac- counting for 55% of industrial output and more than 40% of export earnings. However, the country has been considered to have relatively high political risk associated with investment. Uzbekistan has considerable mineral deposits, including uranium. It is the world's seventh-ranking uranium supplier and is expanding pro- duction. Japanese and Chinese joint ventures are active in uranium development, especially focused on black shales. Uzbekistan was a signifcant source of Russian uranium supply until independence in 1991. Uranium production until then took place in Uz- bekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, with little regard for national borders and much of the treatment being in Tajikistan. Today, most uranium is mined in the middle of the country, with Navoi as the centre, linked to mines by railway. According to the 2011 Red Book, Uzbekistan has 96,000 tonnes in reasonably assured resources plus inferred resources, to US$130/kg. National uranium mining company Navoi Mining & Metallurgy Combinat (NMMC) in 2011 identifed 101,000 tonnes in permeable sand and gravel beds, plus 36,000 tonnes in carbonaceous-siliceous formation including black shale deposits, which have so far not supported com- mercial production, and foreign expertise is being sought for them. In February 2014 Goskomgeo (State Committee for Geology and Mineral Resources) reported resources of 138,800 tonnes in sandstones and 47,000 tonnes in black shales. Uranium mining in Central Asia By Dr Jonathan Cobb, senior communication manager, World Nuclear Association World Nuclear Association The World Nuclear Association (WNA) is the international or- ganization that represents the global nuclear industry. Its mis- sion is to promote a wider understanding of nuclear energy among key international infuencers by producing authoritative information, developing common industry positions, and con- tributing to the energy debate, as well as to pave the way for expanding nuclear business. WNA membership encompasses virtually all world uranium mining, conversion, enrichment and fuel fabrication; all reactor vendors; major nuclear engineering, construction, and waste management companies; and the majority of world nuclear generation. Other WNA members provide international ser- vices in nuclear transport, law, insurance, brokerage, industry analysis and fnance.

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