China will invest more than 16 billion rubles. in a new uranium mine in Eastern Siberia in exchange for 49% in a joint venture and about 600 tonnes of uranium per year.
The Chinese National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) will finance the construction of a uranium mine in the Trans-Baikal Territory, to which Rosatom could not find money in Russia. On March 12, the corresponding term agreement was signed by representatives of the state corporation Rosatom and the Russian-Chinese Investment Fund for Regional Development (IFRR) acting in the interests of CNNC.
According to the agreement, in 2018-2019 the fund will invest 2.53 billion rubles. in the construction of ground infrastructure facilities and the reopening of mine No. 6 at the Argun and Zherlov deposits of the Streltsov ore field near Krasnokamensk, said the Director General of IFRR Rustam Temirgaliyev. In total, the fund is ready to provide 16.1 billion rubles for this project in the coming years. In return, the Chinese side will receive 49% of the joint venture, which will be created to develop the field within six months with JSC Atomredmetzoloto (ARMZ), which extracts uranium by its daughter Rosatom. Before that, all necessary permits, including the Foreign Investment Commission, for the participation of foreigners in the development of a strategic deposit must be obtained.
"Mine No. 6 is our first project. Our fund will support projects that will be of interest to CNNC and Rosatom, including the joint construction of nuclear power plants in other countries and the production of isotopes, "said the chairman of IFRD Board of Directors Stephen Wang.
According to the source of RBC, close to one of the parties to the talks, joint projects can also be on the construction of fast neutron reactors.
Half will go for export
The operational reserves of Argun and Zherlov deposits amount to about 38 thousand tons of uranium. The average content of strategic metal is higher for them than for operating mines, which makes it possible to guarantee a competitive production cost, it is confirmed on the website of Rosatom. The total cost of the construction of the mine in Rosatom is estimated at 18.5 billion rubles. Thus, the state corporation, taking into account Chinese investments, needs to find about 2.4 billion rubles for the project.
According to Temirgaliyev, CNNC and ARMZ will also conclude an off-commission contract at the end of March (an agreement on the purchase of products to be produced within the project that provides for its financing) on the supply of 50% of the uranium that will be mined at the No. 6 mine to China . According to the source of RBC, familiar with the agreements under discussion, China expects to receive about 600 tons of uranium per year with a production capacity of the mine of 1200 tons. Later, the Chinese side intends to agree on the supply of already enriched uranium.
Based on the current price of uranium in the spot market (on March 12, the U308 was trading at $ 22.25 per pound, according to the industry consulting company Ux Consulting Co.), 600 tons of uranium are worth $ 29.5 million, the director of the corporate ratings group ACRA Maxim Khudalov. But the contract prices are usually higher than spot prices, so the project for the Chinese can pay off in about seven years, Khudalov estimates, which corresponds to the world practice. Nuclear projects are long even in production, the expert noted.
The mine with a difficult fate
Development of Mine No. 6 began in the 1980s, but ten years later it was mothballed. An attempt to open the mine was undertaken in the early 2000s, but because of a lack of funding, the work was stopped, the mine was again completely mothballed. "Rosatom" last year unsuccessfully tried to attract Vnesheconombank's funds for this project.
ARMZ intends to commission the first stage of the No. 6 mine and to extract the first ton of uranium ore in 2023. By 2022, according to estimates, the reserves of the currently developed deposits in Krasnokamensk (the Trans-Baikal Territory) will be depleted. If the new mine is not opened, the authorities will have to resettle the entire population of this 55,000-strong single-industry city. According to Stepan Zhiryakov, a member of the Federation Council from the Trans-Baikal Territory, who is quoted by Chita.ru, the project to build a new mine in Krasnokamensk is not commercial, but social: "If in the country we extract about 2.5 thousand tons, then more than 5 thousand .t comes from abroad. And uranium is cheaper. We have a very expensive situation in the Trans-Baikal Territory with uranium mining. "
Russia's own uranium demand is about 3,000 tons per year. Approximately two-thirds of this volume is produced by the Priargunsky Mining and Chemical Combine (PGGO, Krasnokamensk), the rest is Dalur in the Kurgan region and JSC Khiagda in Buryatia.
Modest Chinese interest
China with 38 operating nuclear reactors is trying to provide itself with uranium, planning to build 20 more reactors by 2020. To this end, the country is actively investing in uranium mining projects in Namibia, Kazakhstan, Canada, Uzbekistan and Niger. According to China Daily, uranium is of strategic importance for the country: China plans to produce a third of the necessary raw materials inside the country, a third - abroad, and buy the rest. Since 2007, China has been creating uranium reserves in order to ensure its ambitious program for the construction of nuclear power plants (the plan is up to 100 reactors by 2030), expecting a rise in prices for this raw material in the long term.
"For this country, which imports 18 thousand tons of uranium a year mainly from Kazakhstan, these 600 tons from Russia are nothing. Apparently, this is a mutually beneficial political project, "says Alexander Uvarov, editor-in-chief of Atominfo portal.
Rosatom is planning to begin work on the restoration of Mine No. 6 on Tuesday, March 13. The first tranche for the construction of its infrastructure facilities in the amount of 350 million rubles. the state corporation has allocated in November of the last year.