Uranium Sector Cheers Panel's Call for Liberalization

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The two dominant players in Canada's uranium sector are cheering the Competition Policy Review Panel's call for liberalization of the industry.

The two dominant players in Canada's uranium sector are cheering the Competition Policy Review Panel's call for liberalization of the industry - a call that comes with an enormous condition.

The global uranium industry holds strict limits on foreign investment that date back to Cold War-era concerns over nuclear weapons proliferation. In Canada, foreign ownership of uranium mining is capped at 49 per cent unless a Canadian partner for a project cannot be found. Other countries have similar or more restrictive rules.

The panel suggests that Canada liberalize these rules to allow more foreign investment, but only if other countries take similar measures to allow Canadian firms to invest abroad or get access to key technologies.

That is exactly what Jerry Grandey, chief executive of Cameco Corp., wanted to hear. Cameco used the word "reciprocity" in its submission to the panel, and that became a core part of the final report.

"I think the panel has come to a very sound conclusion that Canada should not unilaterally change its current policy without demanding benefits flowing in the other direction," he said in an interview.

More than three-quarters of global production is centred in just seven countries, including Canada.

The other big player in the Canadian uranium sector is the French firm Areva Group. Despite some questions about what "reciprocity" would mean, Areva Canada president Armand Laferrere welcomed the panel's findings as much as Cameco.

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