Malawi offers joint uranium exploration with India

Mineral-rich Malawi on Saturday expressed interest in joint exploration of its uranium reserves with India.

Updated: Jan 09, 2010, 09:08 AM IST

Lilongwe: Mineral-rich Malawi on Saturday
expressed interest in joint exploration of its uranium
reserves with India as part of its efforts to attain energy
security, even as the two countries inked three key pacts in
the fields like agriculture and small enterprises.

After singing three important agreements for cooperation
in various fields, Vice President Joyce Banda said that India
and Malawi can work together to explore uranium sites as her
country has huge deposits of the mineral.

"We have discovered Malawi has huge deposits of uranium.
We can work with Indian government to explore other sites of
uranium deposits," Banda said replying to a query on what kind
of assistance it wants from India in exploring the mineral

In her speech, Banda said while India has proposed a
Memorandum of Understanding in the field of coal resources,
Malawi is proposing that the scope of the MoU should be
expanded to include development of other mineral resources
such as uranium, which is an important source of energy.

"What is paramount for Malawi is energy security. Mining
of uranium is just a component of energy. Uranium is just a
part of the larger picture," she said.

India and Malawi also signed three agreements in fields
of agriculture and allied sectors, small and medium
enterprises and Protocol on Foreign Office Consultations,
during Vice President Hamid Ansari`s visit to this country.

The agreements aim at giving a fillip to setting up new
industries in Malawi, promoting marketing of agri products,
animal husbandry and micro processing.

Banda said there are four specific areas in which Malawi
is seeking India`s cooperation for energy listing coal, water
and wind energy as the other components besides uranium.

"Malawi has good mineral resources in which we are
interested but there are things, which are being examined in
some depth," Ansari had said before embarking on his three
nation visit on Jan 5.

Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs Vivek
Katju, who later briefed reporters regarding the agreements
and discussions between the two countries, however evaded a
direct reply on the issue.

"They have energy resources and they view this (uranium)
is also a part of their resources," he said when asked about
the offer of the Malawian side on it.

To a question on how India responds to the offer, Katju
said, "the country indicated that it is ready and willing that
there should be cooperation across the board in energy sector
like in all other sectors".

Uranium production began in Malawai from its Kayelekera
mine owned by Paladin Energy of Australia in September 2009.

The first uranium exports from the country took place in
mid-October to Canada.

Katju said India is discussing with Malawi an MoU on
cooperation in mineral resources, which it hopes to finalise
in the coming months.

Later in a joint communique, Malawi thanked India for its
development assistance made available mainly through the EXIM
BANK, Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme, and
the Commonwealth African Assistance Plan.

It also expressed satisfaction on granting of duty free
access on various products within the framework of the Duty
Free Tariff Preference Scheme for Least Developed Countries,
announced at the India-Africa Forum last year.

The communique said that the two countries agreed to
expedite negotiations to finalise proposed MoUs on mineral
resources, exemption of visas for holders of Official and
Diplomatic passports, rural development, health and medicine.

They agreed to sign the remaining MoUs during the next
high level visit.

The two countries also agreed to establish a joint
implementation and monitoring mechanism to ensure expeditious
implementation of agreements and MoUs.

Besides uranium exploration, the Malawi government also
sought India`s support in development of hydro-electric power
stations in identified sites, coal-fired power generation,
bio-fuel and development of potential mining sites of coal.

Asked about China taking up a number of construction and
infrastructure projects in Malawi recently, Banda said: "Being
a sovereign state, we have a bilateral relationship with
China" but added that Ansari`s visit gives an opportunity to
enhance bilateral relations with India.

She also sought Indian investment in Nsanje World Inland
Port project and said her country was keen that India re-opens
its diplomatic mission in Malawi, closed since 1993.