14 Sep 2020 14:33

Uranium One targeting 9-10% of world lithium market by 2030, could start production in 2023

MOSCOW. Sept 14 (Interfax) - The Rosatom group's uranium miner Uranium One plans to start producing lithium in 2023 and to control a tenth of the world market for it by 2030, Sergei Polgorodnik, head of nuclear materials exporter Techsnabexport, said in an interview with the Rosatom Country in-house journal.

"Uranium One's uranium mining expertise can be put to use when mining rare metals," he said regarding plans to develop new lines of business.

A number of lithium contracts will be signed before the end of next year. "Developing assets involves many stages: you have to build facilities, to implement technology. We aim to put our own products on the market in 2023 after we start recovering lithium from ore, and from 2025 after we start recovering it from hydromineral feedstock," Polgorodnik said.

"We're thinking of acquiring mines abroad to build up global production chains, with end products like batteries, localizing production in Russia. Our aim is to capture 3.5% of the world lithium market by 2025 and 9%-10% of it by 2030," he said.

Uranium One is thinking of acquiring mines in Africa, for example. "All the conditions are in place for a quick start: quality feedstock, long-term license sand a ready portfolio of off-take contracts, "Polgorodnik said.

Uranium One Group (U1G) in October last year signed a strategic memorandum of understanding with Canada's Wealth Minerals Ltd., which has a controlling stake in the Atacama lithium project in northern Chile, on the acquisition by U1 of up to a 51% ownership interest in the project on commercial terms to be agreed upon. The MOU provides for a due diligence period and gives U1G the right to match the terms of any proposed alternative transaction. The closing of the proposed transaction would be subject to customary closing conditions and approvals, including the ability of the parties to enter into a definitive purchase and sale agreement and U1G being satisfied with the results of its due diligence.

The MOU provides that the parties will enter into an off-take agreement, whereby U1G would have the right to purchase 100% of the products produced from the Atacama Project, provided the proposed transaction closes.

Wealth Minerals holds an approximately 46,200-hectare licensed position located in the Atacama Salar in Region II of Antofagasta, northern Chile. The Atacama Salar is the World's highest grade and largest producing lithium brine deposit, and currently produces approximately one third of global lithium output from two production facilities operated by Sociedad Quimica y Minera and Rockwood Lithium.

In July 2018, Wealth Minerals announced delays in its Atacama Project drilling program. Having mobilized and transported a sonic drill rig to the Project area, local community representatives expressed concerns to Wealth's drilling crew about the project's impact on the area. While legally within its rights to continue drilling, the company has chosen a non-confrontational approach with local stakeholders. As a result, Wealth is undertaking additional consultation with local community representatives, government officials and with Wealth's state-partner ENAMI.

Uranium One Inc. is one of the largest uranium miners in the world. In Kazakhstan, the company owns 70% of the Betpak Dala joint venture operating the Akdala and South Inkai projects, 50% of Karatau and Akbastau, 30% of the Kyzylkum joint venture operating the Kharasan project and 49.67% of the Zarechnoye joint venture developing the Zarechnoye and South Zarechnoye fields. In the United States, U1 owns 100% of the Willow Creek project, and is the operator of Mantra Resources, which owns the Mkuju River mine in Tanzania.