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UK ambassador: Uzbek mining sector opening up to foreign investment

During the first three and a half months of his presidency, Shavkat Mirziyoyev has encouraged reforms to open up the Uzbek mining sector to foreign investment, the British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Christopher Allan, said during a webinar on trade opportunities April 3.

While recognizing that there was still a long way to go, Allan said the Uzbek government has taken measures to create a "more friendly business environment" both domestically and internationally. The Mirziyoyev administration is drafting two "major documents" that represent a "big shift" in the country's policy to foreign investment.

The first of the decrees stipulates measures to attract foreign investment for exploration in Uzbekistan, while the second will include a list of mineral deposits that will be open for development by foreign companies and well as the criteria by which investors will be selected. Allan said the two documents could be signed into law over the next few months.

In spite of the recent surge in progress, Allan said the lack of access to foreign currency in Uzbekistan remains the main deterrent for foreign investors.

"A floating Uzbek som is a very big step to make," he said, adding that there was "reasonable conviction" the government will make the transition over the next few years.

The head of mining consultancy firm Wardell Armstrong, Jan Lewis, said "Uzbekistan has the potential to be a major player on the international mining stage," but there has been comparatively little exploration over the past few years. He flagged state-owned deposits and inflexible subsoil laws as some of the underlying factors that have held the sector back.

Stating that there are over 1,800 known mineral deposits in Uzbekistan, Lewis said the country had "world-class" gold and uranium resources.