Special Correspondent

MUMBAI: The Earthstone group, a diversified multinational group headed by non-resident Indian (NRI) Pankaj Shah, has, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Earthstone Uranium FZE, entered into an agreement with the Government of the Republic of Niger, whereby the Republic of Niger will grant Earthstone Uranium four exploration permits for uranium and associated elements.

A statement issued by the company says that Earthstone Uranium intends to invest $50 million over the next five years; with the first investment in February 2009 through a staged programme of airborne geophysics, including radiometric and electromagnetic surveys, regolith mapping and ground checks of all geophysical anomalies. The company expects to supply uranium to Indian corporations, both in private and government sectors.

The Earthstone group has a presence in mines and minerals and interests in energy, roads, airports, ports, rail networks and other associated infrastructure. Other big international players like Rio Tinto were among the other 15 companies that were looking for the blocks assigned to Earthstone Uranium .

Four permits

The four permits totalling about 2,000 sq. km. are part of the Tim Mersoi sedimentary basin. These permits in Niger are in regions now producing uranium, including the Akouta underground mine and Arlit open pit mine operated by Areva.