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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Vekselberg Will Finance African Venture

APVekselberg greeting ARMgold CEO Patrice Motsepe, watched by Putin and Mbeki, in South Africa last September.
Billionaire Viktor Vekselberg plans to invest in uranium exploration and mining projects in Asia and Africa and cash in on Russia's global hunt for more sources of the element vital for atomic power.

Renova Group, a Vekselberg holding with $10 billion in assets, signed a partnership agreement Friday with state-owned nuclear trader Tenex. The two are seeking access to uranium in South Africa, Namibia, and Congo, among other locations, they said in a joint statement.

The fuel trader's "possibilities and Renova's investment potential should give very positive results," said Vladimir Smirnov, head of Tenex.

The move fits with Russia's goals to increase its uranium stocks, as it seeks to expand nuclear fuel exports, he said.

Vekselberg, who is also an adviser to South African President Thabo Mbeki, agreed to spend several billion dollars on metals and mining projects in South Africa during a visit to the country with President Vladimir Putin last September. Russia, which is short on uranium, aims to build as many as 42 atomic plants at home and 60 abroad as governments worldwide seek alternative energy sources.

Renova already plans to spend at least $1 billion building a ferroalloy plant in South Africa and study the feasibility of building a large manganese pit. The projects would form a base from which to expand to Namibia, Ghana, Congo and Mozambique, Vekselberg said during the visit.

Russia has enough uranium to satisfy its own needs for the next 60 years. It wants to develop foreign projects to provide its nuclear industry with uranium for the export contracts of nuclear fuel.

"Tenex is at present in talks with other Russian and foreign companies, interested in joint investments in uranium mining projects in Russia and abroad,'' Smirnov said. Talks were "developing well," he said.