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A Brief and Unexpected Uranium Comment

Short, but potentially very important tidbit in uranium last week.

Local press noted comments from the world's top uranium producer, Kazakhstan's Kazatomprom. Suggesting that the company is eying an unexpected path for growth.

Going to Africa.

The company's project manager and advisor to the chairman Azat Betekbayev told a conference in Durban, South Africa that Kazatomprom will enter the African market. Few details were given of the exact plans.

If such a move comes to pass, it would be an unusual direction for the uranium major. Representing one of its first forays outside of Kazakhstan.

The tack is all the more unexpected given the destination. With Africa recently having fallen out of favour as a uranium exploration and development locale.

Some activity has been taking place for the yellowcake sector in places like Tanzania. But at the same time, developments in producing nations like Namibia and Malawi have painted a bleak picture of the industry here. With mines shutting down, and owners looking at strategic options for selling or mothballing operations.

One potential standout on the continent is Niger. Where a number of relatively high-grade deposits have been identified. And a decent production history has been established by operators like Areva--putting the country in the top five amongst uranium-producing nations globally.

Of course, Kazatomprom hasn't indicated where in Africa they might be investigating. But whatever the target, it will be off the beaten path in the industry--where focus has recently shifted to proven and politically-stable districts like Canada and Australia.

The expansionary move could be driven by Kazatomprom's difficulties on its home turf. With the company having recently announced it won't pursue any new development projects in Kazakhstan. Due to poor economics spurred by low uranium prices.

It's of course unlikely the company will find better development economics anywhere in Africa. But perhaps this is a "look to the future" play. Implying the major sees brighter prospects ahead for the industry--and is moving to position itself accordingly.

Here's to stepping out,

By Dave Forest




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