Setback for Ondoko's Plans The Congolese businessman Richard Ondoko has been working for years to become an essential player in the Central African Republic's mines. But for the moment, he is still a solo operator. We looked into the matter. Hydro Finance Ltd, a company based in the Seychelles, was set up by Ondoko in 2005. That same year, it worked as a consultant to UraMin Inc of South Africa to help it develop its portfolio of uranium exploration permits in Africa, notably in the Central African Republic at Bakouma. UraMin was bought in a hurry by Areva during summer 2007 when a mine at Cigar Lake in Canada partly owned by the French firm was flooded and could not begin production. (At the time it was imperative for Areva to secure another source of uranium urgently so as to validate a contract to sell two EPRs to China.) Hydro Finance also most importantly promised to build a hydroelectric power station at Kembé, 700 km east of Bangui following an agreement signed with the government in 2006. The power station, with capacity of 60 MW, was originally supposed to supply energy to UraMin/Areva and Axmin/Aurafrique's future mines. But the authorities recently moved to reformat Aurafrique's permit, triggering in part a collapse in the share price of Axmin, its parent company, and the suspension of its gold mining project at Passandro. As to UraMin/Areva, negotiations continue and no agreement has been found with Hydro Finance. Contacted to give its position, Areva did not respond. But Richard Ondoko is undeterred. The businessman, who is close to both president François Bozizé and to his nephew, the minister for mines Sylvain N'doutingai, also holds uranium permits in the country. Uranio AG, a company registered in Basle, Switzerland and controlled by Lana International, another entity set up by Ondoko, is in fact the operator of mining concessions at Bakouma North and Ndenguiro, next to UraMin's concessions. According to reports recently published by the consulting firm SRK, the blocs in question are thought to contain at least twice the reserves that UraMin has. The Chinese firm CGNPC recently bought 49% of UraMin. Last week, Uranio AG initialed a preliminary agreement with Hydro Finance for the supply of 30 MW, in view of supplying Ondoko's future uranate mine at Bakouma. Need we say more?