French company Orano has expressed its intention to invest up to $500 million in uranium mining and processing in Uzbekistan, as revealed by the Minister of Mining Industry and Geology, Bobir Islamov. He mentioned the existence of a strategic partnership agreement between Uzbekistan and Orano. Currently, the French company is conducting geological exploration, and by the end of this year, a preliminary technical and economic justification for the project will be prepared.
Islamov explained that the strategic agreement includes the exploration of two additional sites in the Tamdyn district of the Navoi region. The final decision regarding these sites will depend on the results of the technical and economic analysis. However, Islamov expressed optimism about the progress of the project.
The minister emphasized that current uranium production volumes have already secured markets. As the production of nuclear fuel increases, Uzbekistan will consider expanding its exports based on market conditions.
“When it comes to uranium, our prices are tied to global prices. If the price rises, our delivery costs increase as well,” stated the minister.
Islamov highlighted the growth in uranium exports to various destinations this year, underscoring the importance of diversifying supply sources. In 2022, Uzbekistan increased uranium exports to the European Union by 2.71 times, reaching 441 tons.
During a visit to Samarkand, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that Orano, in collaboration with the local joint venture Nurlikum Mining, had initiated a pilot project for uranium mining. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev expressed his support for the expansion of geological exploration for uranium deposits with Orano.
Prior to Macron’s visit, Bloomberg reported that his objective in visiting Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan was to discuss the expansion of uranium supplies, as France considers Central Asia as an alternative to Russian nuclear fuel.
In November 2022, the State Committee of Geology, Navoi Mining, and Orano signed a tripartite agreement to expand uranium mining and processing. Uzbekistan aims to follow the French model in the “nuclear fuel value chain.” Orano has stated its readiness to invest “several hundred million euros.”