India inks uranium deal with Mongolia


New Delhi : India Monday signed a uranium supply agreement with Mongolia, the fifth country to seal a civil nuclear pact with New Delhi, and announced a soft loan of $25 million to rejuvenate the economy of the resource-rich Central Asian country.

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India also inked four more agreements with Mongolia after talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj here.

The memorandum of agreement on “development of cooperation in the field of peaceful uses of radioactive minerals and nuclear energy” was signed by senior officials in the department of atomic energy of the two countries.

With this pact, Mongolia, a former satellite state of the Soviet Union, became the fifth country after the US, France, Russia and Kazakhstan to sign a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with India.

Other agreements related to stabilisation loan assistance, health and medical science, cooperation in statistical matters and a cultural exchange programme for 2009-2012.

Elbegdorj arrived here Sunday on a four-day visit.

The Mongolian president, along with his delegation comprising senior ministers and officials, will also visit Agra, Gaya and Mumbai.

“This visit will give emphasis to the development of our bilateral relations in many different avenues and prospects and we do believe to elevate our relationships to a newer level,” the Mongolian president said here.

Mongolia is on the brink of signing a major deal with mining giants Rio Tinto and Ivanhoe for the massive copper and gold deposits in the Gobi desert that is expected to generate $30 billion in tax revenue over 50 years.

If the deal comes through, it will have a major spin-off impact on Mongolia, one of the poorest countries bulging with huge deposits of copper, gold and uranium.

After decades of neglect, Mongolia, a country of 2.7 million people, is at the centre of a scramble for its huge resources with the US, Russia and China competing for a share of the pie.

Oyu Tolgoi, the biggest minerals deposit in the country, has the potential to produce more than 440,000 tonnes of copper and 330,000 ounces of gold a year on average for at least 35 years.

Last month, Russia and Mongolia agreed to form a joint venture to exploit the Dornod uranium deposit. China is planting oil rigs in the east of the country.

The Mongolian government plans to set up a sovereign wealth fund using mining royalties and tax revenue, and distribute part of the income to citizens to mitigate poverty.