May 20, 2010 / 11:19 AM / in 7 years

Russia to spend $1 bln on Namibia uranium search

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia is ready to invest $1 billion in uranium exploration in Namibia, Russia’s state nuclear firm said on Thursday as it seeks to compete for projects with global miner Rio Tinto in the African country.

<p>Uranium pellets, a nuclear fuel product for atomic power plants, are seen on a production line at Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Kazakhstan's eastern town of Ust-Kamenogorsk in this August 11, 2006. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov</p>

“We’re ready to start investing already this year,” the head of state corporation Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, told journalists.

Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba was visiting Moscow to meet Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Kiriyenko said the uranium extracted from Namibia could be used for a nuclear power plant Russia was building in Turkey.

Russia and Turkey signed this month a $20 billion project for Moscow to build and own a controlling stake in Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.

The offer of investment in Namibia is in line with the Kremlin’s broader policy of promoting its interests in Africa, where it faces competition from China and the West for resources..

The money could boost Namibia’s economy, where, according International Monetary Fund (IMF) data, gross domestic product (GDP) was $9.04 billion last year.

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.

Kiriyenko said Russia was ready to partner other multinationals present in Namibia, but he told Reuters that Moscow was not talking to Rio Tinto about such cooperation.

Medvedev said on Thursday Russia was also ready to invest in the completion of two hydro power stations in Namibia, a fertilisers plant, railroad construction and copper exploration and processing.

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