May 19, 2010 / 3:33 PM / in 9 years

Russia, Namibia to sign uranium exploration memo

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia and Namibia will agree this week to explore jointly for uranium in Namibia, the Kremlin said on Wednesday as Moscow seeks to compete with global miner Rio Tinto in the African country.

Moscow and Windhoek plan to sign a memorandum of intent when Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba visits Russia on Thursday-Saturday to meet Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Medvedev discussed the idea when visiting Namibia last year as part of his trip to promote Moscow’s interests in Africa, where it faces competition with China and the West for resources.

“The interest of Russian businessmen in accessing the promising market in Namibia, which has vast mineral reserves, is steadily growing,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

Namibia, the world’s fourth-largest uranium producer, is home to the Rossing mine operated by Rio Tinto, which together with Paladin Energy’s Langer Heinrich mine accounts for about 10 percent of global output.

The two companies have expanded their operations in response to a growing global demand for low-carbon energy sources.

Other firms have been joining the exploration drive, with several new mines due to come on stream in the next five years.

Russian firms have already come up against Rio Tinto much closer to Russian borders.

Last year, Mongolia struck a long awaited deal with Rio and its partner, Ivanhoe, on development of Oyu Tolgoi — one of the world’s largest untapped copper-gold deposits — which Russian investors had coveted, too.

Russia and Namibia will also consider widening Russian involvement “in big projects” in Namibia, including mineral deposits, hydrocarbon exploration and power, the Kremlin said without elaborating.

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