The renaissance of the ASX uranium sector in response to the surge in prices for the nuclear fuel has been missing one key element for local investors.

The missing element has been exposure to the Kazakhstan uranium industry, the world’s biggest by a factor of three, and one based on the low-impact and low-cost in-situ recovery (ISR) method of extraction.

But fear not, the exposure void for local investors is being filled by ASX-listed explorer C29 Metals (ASX:C29).

The company has struck a deal to acquire the Ulytau uranium project near the historic Bota-Burum, one of the biggest Soviet era mines – Kazakhstan gained independence in 1991 – in the south of the country.

The project comes with a historic high-grade estimate (it is not a JORC compliant resource estimate) of 9.85 million pounds grading 2,790ppm in what incoming managing director Shannon Green said is a “highly prospective region.’’

In his 25 year career Green has got up close to two Australian uranium projects – the stalled Ben Lomond project near Townsville, and the Wiluna project in Western Australia.

He said it was the grade at Ulytau that “really sets the project apart.’’

“The grade stands head and shoulders above most other uranium projects around the world,’’ Green said.

‘To see that kind a grade running at just under 3,000ppm is significant itself.’’

“But then you look at some of the historic drill intersection that we came across in the due diligence process, there are grades running 6,500-7,000ppm.’’

“My history of uranium projects tells me that you really need to be dealing with (at least) 700ppm,’’ Green said.

“It is what really excites me about this project – it’s the grade, you just don’t see that in the uranium space.’’

“With initial round exploration and first drilling planned in the September quarter, we aim to rapidly advance and grow the historic resource.’’

Green said the company would work towards declaring a maiden JORC compliant resource estimate and a compliant “exploration target’’ within 12 months of completing the acquisition.

While C29’s uranium adventure in Kazakhstan is a first for the ASX sector, ASX-listed Sarytogan (ASX:SGA) has been advancing one of the world’s biggest and highest grade graphite projects in the country, with a pre-feasibility study expected in the September quarter.

And despite its former Soviet republic history, Kazakhstan has long history of involving foreign investors in mining ventures. Canadian giant Cameco has held a 40% interest in the large-scale Inkai ISR mine since 2008, with majority state-owned uranium company state Kazatomprom the 60% partner.

Mining in the country is subject to a mining code introduced in 2018 based on WA’s mining code.

“The country has been westernising at a fast rate of knots and our assessment is that any problems or issues will be no different than encountered elsewhere,’’ Green said.

That was somewhat of an understatement given uranium mining is effectively banned in most Australian states.

“Given its status as the world’s biggest producer, support for uranium exploration and mining in Kazakhstan is a given,’’ Green said.

An equity raising in association with the push in to Kazakhstan will result in C29 sporting $3.93 million to get cracking at Ulytau.

At the 7c issue price, C29 will have a market cap of $9.8 million (undiluted), making it one of the lowest cap uranium explorers on the ASX, initially at least.

Before the Kazakhstan push the group’s market cap was covered by copper-gold projects in NSW’s Lachlan Fold belt – Reedy Creek and Sampson Tank – and in Queensland – Mayfield.

Mayfield sits in an exploration hotspot following the exploration success of neighbours Carnaby Resources and Hammer Metals which have been toying with a possible consolidation.
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