The agrarian committee of Russia's Federation Council has approved measures aimed at providing state incentives to the country's uranium mining industry, Atomredmetzoloto (ARMZ), the uranium mining arm of state nuclear corporation Rosatom, said yesterday. The Federation Council is the upper chamber of the Federal Assembly, the upper house of the Russian parliament. he approval on 19 May followed a Federation Council meeting on 23 April that discussed ways to improve legislation on the mining and processing of natural uranium, ARMZ said.
"The strategic importance of uranium production for the development of Russia's energy sector and the strengthening of national security, as well as the presence of rich mineral resources and modern industrial facilities capable of meeting Russian uranium demand now and for decades to come, were all noted," ARMZ said. But the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident in Japan in 2011 created a "protracted unfavourable situation" in the world uranium market and had a negative impact on the development of the industry, it added.
Early this year, the need for state regulation of strategic sectors was raised at the 12th Krasnoyarsk Economic Forum, where the socio-economic development of the Far East and Trans-Baikal regions was discussed at an expanded meeting that included local authorities. In particular, they talked about the future development of the city of Krasnokamensk and its "backbone company" JSC Priargunsky Industrial Mining and Chemical Union (JSC Pimcu) and its affiliates that have been affected by the negative changes to the market.
The meeting recommended that the construction of Mine No.6 be included in the policy Economic Development of the Far East and Trans-Baikal up to 2018 as a very important pre-requisite for Pimcu's future operations. The project includes the development of "high-quality deposits that will enable the company to maintain stable and competitive production [of uranium] for decades", ARMZ said.
This initiative was supported by the Coordination Council under the plenipotentiary of the Russian President in the Siberian Federal District, Nikolai Rogozhkin. The council's board recommended that the Trans-Baikal Territory, or Zabaikalsky Krai, be established as a Priority Socio-Economic Development Area , or TOSER by its Russian acronym. This move "opens up broad prospects for the development of the region as an attractive area for investment with its centre in the city of Krasnokamensk, and it helps create new jobs," ARMZ said.
Taking into account the evolving situation and the critical importance of maintaining the level of production of this strategic raw material, parliamentarians supported the initiatives and approved a list of state support measures for the uranium mining industry, ARMZ said. Key measures include the introduction of a zero rate for mining tax and property tax; simplification of the system of granting subsoil use rights; inclusion of the Economic Development of the Far East and Trans-Baikal up to 2018 policy in the Federal Target Program; and the development of infrastructure in Krasnokamensk.
The Russian government on 16 April took the decision to assign Krasnokamensk the status of a Category I Single Industry Municipality, which enables the creation of a TOSER there according to law. Work to register Krasnokamensk as a TOSER is expected be completed before the end of this year, ARMZ said.
The committee has submitted its recommendations to the Security Council, federal and regional authorities and Rosatom. The Federation Council plans to review progress made with these recommendations during its spring session next year.
Set up in 1968, PJSC Pimcu is currently the largest uranium mining company in Russia, according to ARMZ. Pimcu has six underground mines, most of them operating: Mine No.1, Mine No.2, Glubokiy Mine, Shakhta 6R, Mine No.8 with extraction from Maly Tulukui deposit, and Mine No.6 developing the Argunskoye and Zherlovoye deposits. Ore is processed at a hydrometallurgy plant and at a heap leaching unit. The company's end product is uranium oxide (U3O8).
ARMZ's 2008 plan called for Priargunsky's production to be expanded from 3000 to 5000 tonnes U per year by 2020. Mine No.6 development began in 2009 for stage 1 production from 2015 to reach full capacity in 2019, at a cost of RUR30 billion ($975 million), but this was put on hold in 2013. In March 2015, ARMZ said it hoped to find co-investors in the project, and federal funds may be forthcoming. Stage 2 was to commence in 2024.