Areva and Rhodia in nuclear, rare earths deal

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French nuclear group Areva and chemicals counterpart Rhodia announced Tuesday an agreement to develop deposits containing a mix of uranium and rare earth elements.

Under the terms of a memorandum of understanding, the companies will combine their respective expertise "to put together joint offers for the development and exploitation of hitherto unworked deposits containing the two strategic resources," the companies said in a statement.

"Eventually, the two parties could link up to conduct joint technical audits or studies of identified deposits, create specific joint-ventures or co-participate in mining projects carried out by Areva or third parties," the statement continued.

Areva senior executive vice president Sebastien de Montessus said the agreement "paves the way for the development of deposits with untapped potential and testifies to the synergies that exist between our two groups."

It will give Areva access to new uranium sources while helping to ensure strategic metals supplies to Rhodia, he added.

Frederic Carencotte, industrial director of Rhodia Rare Earth Systems, called the deal a new step in the company's diversification policy, enabling his group access to "the most sought-after rare earths."

China produces more than 95 percent of the world's rare earths, 17 elements critical to making everything from iPods to electric cars and missiles.

Rhodia is one of only two European producers of the rare earths, along with Estonian firm Silmet, now part of the US Molycorp group.

No figures were attached to the Rhodia-Areva agreement.

© 2011 AFP

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