December 12, 2007 / 9:04 AM / 12 years ago

INTERVIEW-Zambia to approve uranium mining law by year-end

LUSAKA, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Zambia plans to pass a new uranium law this month to allow foreign firms to start mining uranium on a large scale for use as a source of energy to drive its economy and for exports, a minister said on Wednesday.

Kalombo Mwansa, the minister of mines and minerals development, said the southern African country had drawn up guidelines on mining and exports of uranium in line with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The law would be approved before the end of December after consultations with the United Nations agency, to enable foreign firms that have been exploring for uranium to apply for mining licences in areas where uranium has been discovered, he said.

“We have already drawn guidelines for mining uranium which we handed to the ministry of justice. The justice minister is currently consulting the UN on the mining, storage and transportation of uranium,” Mwansa told Reuters in an interview.

“A statutory instrument (legislation) will be signed before the end of December. Once we publish the law, we will begin to process applications and ask (more) mining companies to apply for licences,” he added.

“Our legislation must be in line with the guidelines for the International Atomic Energy because of the sensitivity surrounding uranium,” Mwansa said.

Mwansa said uranium had been discovered in parts of mineral-rich Zambia and that more licences would be awarded to foreign firms for exploration of uranium in other parts of the country which the government believed had uranium deposits.

“Currently we have uranium deposits in north-western and southern provinces, but we feel more deposits can be found with much more exploration in other parts of the country,” Mwansa said.

Mwansa said Zambia in future would export energy derived from uranium to neighbouring countries, but he gave no further details.

He said uranium would contribute more foreign exchange to the treasury of a country that ranks among the world’s largest copper and cobalt producers.

“Apart from bringing in more foreign exchange, the new uranium mining companies will create more jobs for our people,” Mwansa said.

Copper and cobalt mining is Zambia’s main economic lifeblood although other minerals such as uranium and nickel have been discovered recently.

Some of the foreign firms prospecting for uranium in Zambia are Australia’s Africa-focused miners Albidon Ltd ALDq.L and Australia-based African Energy Resources (AFR.AX), have jointly discovered more uranium deposits in southern Zambia.

Others are Lithic Metals and Energy Ltd LMEY.L, which is listed on London’s Alternative Investment Market and Equinox Minerals Ltd, all of which have said they have found good results in their exploration areas.

Editing by Michael Roddy

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