Toshiba has secured the rights to a large portion of the uranium being mined by development company GoviEx, at the Madaouela uranium mine in Niger.
The deal involves Toshiba handing over $40 million to GoviEx, funding the initial extraction and processing of the uranium. Three quarters of that money comes from the purchasing of GoviEx bonds, while the final $10 million comes from a loan of 0.2 million pounds of uranium.
As one of the world's top five producers of uranium, Niger has significant stores of the material, with the local government keen to expand the lucrative operations. A GoviEx survey at the Madaouela mine suggests that there could be upwards of 100 million pounds of uranium still within minable reach. Toshiba's investment is said to guarantee it a "significant portion" of the mine's output when the deal comes to fruition. Mining is expected to start in 2017, with Toshiba's deal coming into effect in 2020.
Toshiba is expected to sell off much of its uranium, though it could potentially find usage for it in the electronics industry. Uranium oxide has the ability to produce better high density integrated circuits than the traditonal silicon due to its dialectric constant being double that of the traditional electronics material at room temperature.
It's also capable of producing very efficient solar cells, a technology that is becoming increasingly commonplace. Perhaps as better designs are found, Toshiba envisages a world that will require more uranium, allowing it to turn a tidy profit on its investment.