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Friday, October 19, 2007

Published: 19-OCT-06
Bangui - President Francois Bozize of the Central African Republic (CAR) has opened the country's first major uranium mining concern, run by the South African firm UraMin, state radio reported Wednesday.

The site, which officially opened on Tuesday is in the Bakouma basin, about 100 kilometres north of the northwestern town of Bangassou. In a speech there Bozize said that previously the mineral resources of CAR "have been exploited in an informal and chaotic fashion".

"If everybody does their job properly, there will be benefits for the state and for the population of Bakouma ... by way of roads that are being built, the electricity that will be supplied, schools and hospitals that will be constructed," he said, according to the radio.

On its website, UraMin said that the South African company "has agreed to acquire a 90 percent interest in a mineral exploitation licence over the project area for an investment of $27mn", which also covers a 12-month exploration period.

The remaining 10 percent stake is held by the CAR state.

Opening the facility and speaking in the Sango national language, Bozize chastised politicians whom he said had "begun to whisper ... and spread lies about the UraMin company."

When parliament legislated late in August for the exploitation and export of radioactive minerals, opposition deputies objected that there were insufficient environmental guarantees in the UraMin project and sought in vain to obtain publication of the convention signed by the state and the company.

Some members of parliament asked for details of the sums paid to the CAR by UraMin, while the local press published reports of unexplained payments into foreign bank accounts.

Minister of Mines Sylvain Ndoutingai said that when the mining deal was signed, UraMin paid one billion CFA francs ($1.9mn) to the state.

The presence of uranium at Bakouma was first brought to light in 1947, when the CAR was under French colonial rule. Deposits were exploited to a limited extent in the 1960s and 1970s, but never on a substantial commercial scale.

The Rest @ Business Africa

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