Zimbabwe Says Uranium at Exploration Stage, No Iran Trade Seen

Zimbabwe is still assessing the size of its uranium reserves and isn’t planning exports of the mineral to Iran, a Zimbabwean minister said after a report that the nations signed an agreement for shipments of the nuclear-weapons ingredient.

“We are not selling or marketing any uranium to anyone at all, so we cannot talk of shipments to anyone,” Deputy Mining Minister Gift Chimanikire, a member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, said today in a phone interview. The chairman of the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corp. echoed the minister’s comments.

Today’s London-based Times newspaper cited Chimanikire as saying Zimbabwe had signed a memorandum of understanding to supply Iran with uranium. Negotiations between Iran and President Robert Mugabe had been taking place for more than two years, the Times said, citing U.K. security officials whom it didn’t identify.

Iran is under international sanctions over its nuclear program, which the Islamic state says is for civilian purposes such as generating electricity. The U.S. and many of its allies allege the atomic development is aimed at producing weapons.

“We signed an MoU with Iran, which covers various agreements in mineral trading such as diamonds, gold and other minerals,” Chimanikire said. “We have no capacity to handle uranium as a country, and besides we don’t even know the quantity of uranium” deposits viable for mining, he said.

Uranium Deposits

Iran’s foreign minister met with Zimbabwean mining officials to resume negotiations on uranium, the Associated Press reported in February 2011, citing an intelligence report from an unidentified member country of the the International Atomic Energy Agency. The London-based Sunday Telegraph reported in April 2010 that Iran and Zimbabwe had reached a secret agreement on swapping uranium for oil.

Chimanikire said the MoU with Iran was signed some time ago and not this year. A Chinese company is exploring northern Zimbabwe for uranium reserves and at present “there have been no sightings of uranium to justify mining,” he said, declining to identify the company.

Zimbabwe Mining Development Corp., a state-owned company that has joint ventures with foreign miners, also denied the country is planning to ship uranium to Iran.

“There is no shipment or plans to ship uranium to Iran whatsoever,” Zimbabwe Mining Chairman Florence Gowora said by phone today. “We are not even considering anything like that or planning to ship anything. It’s very unfortunate that Zimbabwe is being linked to something it does not have or will have in the foreseeable future.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Kevin Crowley in Johannesburg at kcrowley1@bloomberg.net; Godfrey Marawanyika in Harare at gmarawanyika@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Viljoen at jviljoen@bloomberg.net

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