10 Sep 2009 15:08

ARMZ expects to call tender for Elkon uranium project contractor by end 2009

LONDON. Sept 10 (Interfax) - Atomredmetzoloto (ARMZ), the Russian uranium holding, expects to call a tender to find a general contractor for the Elkon uranium project in Yakutia by the end of this year, ARMZ chief Vadim Zhivov said on the sidelines of the World Nuclear Association symposium in London.

Zhivov said ARMZ recently completed a justification of investment (JoI) but saw further opportunities to optimize this and reduce costs. For this reason, ARMZ plans to carry the project out on its own for the time being and only bring foreign partners in during the next stage. "We don't want to sell too cheaply. We're not very keen to sell [a stake in Elkon to foreign investors] at today's value, without taking future opportunities into consideration," he said.

There is, for example, the opportunity to increase the recovery rate for the gold that will be mined as well as uranium at Elkon, Zhivov said. ARMZ will also be looking for ways to optimize uranium technology in order to add value to the project. "We think we'd be better off working by ourselves in 2010 - we have the resources for this," he said.

The Elkon field could eventually be capable of supplying a quarter of the Russian nuclear power industry's uranium. Yakutia has proven uranium reserves of 319,000 tonnes, or 6% of the world's reserves. Reports said at the beginning of this year that investment in the project has been estimated at 90.5 billion rubles and that a mine, capacity 5,000 tonnes of uranium per year, should reach full capacity in 2024. The project could be carried out with the involvement of private investors from Russia and abroad.

In addition, Zhivov said a decision had been reached to hand the Industrial Technologies Institute (VNIPIPT) to ARMZ and that the company was working on the possibility of creating an engineering center.

ARMZ continues to work with Cameco on exploration in northwest Russia, and the Karkhu joint venture with the Canadian company could start to operate by the end of this year, Zhivov said. The necessary licenses have already been obtained, he said.