State-owned nuclear company Kazatomprom has signed a strategic partnership agreement with Sumitomo and Kansai Electric Power for a joint venture development of the Mynkuduk uranium deposit in southern Kazakhstan.

Under the terms of the deal the Japanese partners will buy out the stock of the Abbak company, set up by Kazatomprom, leaving the new venture split 25% to Sumitomo, 10% Kansai and the remaining equity held by Kazakhstan.

With an initial investment of around $100 million, Abbak is due to begin uranium production on a semi-commercial basis by 2007 with full commercial production by 2010. The mine is expected to have a life of 22 years and produce 18,000 tonnes of uranium, most of which will be sold in Japan by Sumitomo.