Published on Wednesday October 26 2011 (AEST)
Diversified mining giant Rio Tinto made a bid for Canadian junior Hathor Exploration last week which significantly gazumped an earlier bid by Canada's uranium leader Cameco. Hathor's highly prospective acreage in Saskatchewan is nearby existing Cameco operations.
Cameco would thus be able to extract greater synergies out of Hathor compared to Rio coming in cold, but analysts are not convinced Cameco, which is still developing its flagship Cigar Lake project, is keen on being dragged into a bidding war. Rio's bid highlights the company's waning legacy uranium exposure, with Rossing in Namibia on the decline and the future of Australia's Ranger mine, in which Rio has a majority owning via Energy Resources of Australia , unclear.
The point for the global uranium market is, nevertheless, that a global mining giant still sees value in uranium mining. On the other side of the ledger, Rio is divesting of aluminium assets.
Last week also brought news that European group URENCO and US conversion company ConverDyn would team up to bid on the depleted tails stockpile sitting at the US Department of Energy. Congress has been looking at ways to commercialise the stockpile to provide funds for environmental clean-up operations.
Once again, such interest betrays a more general market interest in uranium, suggesting that global nuclear energy was not swept away in the Japanese tsunami. However, while such news might spark more spot market interest on the buy-side, one would assume, last week saw little interest from buyers such that sellers, including producers, were forced to reduce pricing.
Industry consultant TradeTech reports five transactions in the spot market totalling just under 800,000lbs of U3O8 equivalent. By week's end prices had moved lower, such that TradeTech's indicative spot price has fallen US85c to US$52.00/lb.
Indicative term prices remain at US$55/lb (medium) and US$63/lb (long).
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