Zimbabwe Considers 3 Bids to Mine Uranium

Zimbabwe Considers 3 Bids to Mine Uranium

Zimbabwe is considering three foreign bids to mine uranium, a state-run newspaper reported Sunday, saying work could begin before the end of the year.

Deputy Mines Minister Tinos Rusere did not identify the bidders to the Sunday Mail, a government mouthpiece, saying only that they were narrowed down from a number of applications to exploit uranium in the remote Kanyemba district.

Among the countries believed involved were China, Russia, South Africa and Namibia, the paper said.

President Robert Mugabe announced in November that the government plans to turn to nuclear energy to ease chronic electricity shortages in the country, which has close ties to two countries with controversial nuclear programs — Iran and North Korea. A plan in the 1990s to acquire a reactor from Argentina never materialized.

Rusere did not specify whether uranium processing proposals were included in the bids currently under consideration, but said an eventual deal would inject much-needed hard currency into the crumbling economy, according to the report.

Zimbabwe is suffering its worst economic crisis since Mugabe led the country to independence from Britain in 1980, with acute shortages of food, foreign currency, gasoline and other imports. The crisis is blamed largely on the collapse of agriculture following the seizure of thousands of white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to black Zimbabweans.

Lengthy power and water outages occur daily. Zimbabwe imports nearly 40 percent of its power from neighboring countries and has not been able to meet its arrears. Its own generating stations have been hit by breakdowns coupled with shortages of equipment, spare parts and coal.

Significant uranium deposits were found in Kanyemba by German prospectors in the 1970s, but were never exploited because of low world prices.

The Kanyemba district is about 160 miles north of the capital, Harare.

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