After nine months of excavations, a joint French-Jordanian mining company has found rich uranium deposits near the surface. The Jordanian-French Uranium Mining Company, a joint venture between the French energy conglomerate AREVA and the Jordan Energy Resources Inc, has reportedly found a site for the first ever uranium mine in Jordan. The Kingdom is establishing a peaceful nuclear energy program with cooperation from both the United Sates and France. The discovery of a domestic source of uranium is a major boost for the program in a country lacking the vast oil and gas reserves of its eastern neighbors, and further reduces the country's dependence on oil imports. "From a strategic point of view, if that uranium deposit proves to be commercially viable and can be manufactured, treated and sold to international organizations or to nuclear powers, I think that might be a strategic asset that could compensate for Jordan's lack of other resources such as oil and gas," Dr. Fares Braizat, head of research at the Social and Economic Survey Research Institute at Qatar University, told The Media Line. "If that happens, it will give Jordan strategic leverage. If the quantities are of significant volume, it will change the way other countries look at Jordan," Braizat added. The estimated 15-year development process was cut to three years by a team of 46 Jordanians and nine French nationals, Gilles Recoche General Manager of the Jordanian-French Uranium Mining Company told the Jordanian newspaperThe Jordan Times. High grade uranium was discovered at very shallow depths, at some points no more than five feet, making future mining both cheaper and easier. The next step for the company will be to establish an open-pit mine followed by the setting up of milling, crushing and extraction facilities for converting the uranium ore inside the Kingdom. The success of the Jordanian-French Uranium Mining Company has attracted the attention of other mining giants such as English Australian Rio Tinto and the Chinese Sino Uranium who are now considering similar ventures to AREVA's. There are possibilities some of the uranium may also be exported in addition to fuelling Jordanian nuclear power plants. Jordan has recently signed an agreement worth $12 million with a Belgian firm to survey a site for its first nuclear power station. The site under consideration is south of the Red Sea port of Aqaba and along the border with Saudi Arabia. Jordan plans to complete its first 1,000-megawatt reactor in five to six years, for both domestic use and possible export. Braizat said he believed the discovery of commercially viable uranium would boost the local nuclear power endeavor "tremendously." "The raw materials will be available free of charge for Jordan internally, and the only cost Jordan will have to pay is the extraction and the treatment cost, which requires technical assistance from other countries," he said.