* Resource minister says reviewing policy, but no decisions
* Foreign miners, Chinese companies want policy change
* Rio Tinto in takeover deal with Canadian uranium explorer
By Julie Gordon
TORONTO, Dec 2 Canada is reviewing a
policy that restricts foreign ownership of uranium mines, but
there has been no decision on revising those rules at this time,
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said on Friday.
Canada is the world's second largest producer of uranium and
home to the highest grade uranium mines in the world.
"We've been looking at it, but I can't say that there's been
any decision on it at this point," Oliver told a Reuters
editorial board in Toronto.
Foreign ownership of operating uranium mines in Canada is
currently restricted to 49 percent under federal policy.
The policy does not effect exploration stage projects.
"I know there's an interest on the part of foreign companies
in seeing it change, and that includes companies in China,"
Oliver said. "But that's the policy at the current time."
The foreign ownership restrictions could end up being an
issue for Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto (RIO.AX), which is in
the midst of a C$654 million ($643 million) takeover of Canada's
Hathor Exploration HAT.TO. [nN1E7AL0GJ]
Hathor owns numerous exploration projects and is developing
the Roughrider deposit in the uranium-rich Athabasca region of
Under current policy, Rio will have to find a domestic
partner before it can start producing uranium from Roughrider,
or any other Canadian project.
Analysts believe that Rio, one of the largest mining company
in the world, plans to use Hathor as a foothold to gain access
to more projects in the Athabasca basin. That would add to the
pressure on the Conservative government to revise ownership
China is also a factor, as the resource hungry nation looks
for uranium to fuel the dozens of nuclear reactors it plans to
build over the next decade.
Currently, Canadian uranium production is dominated by
Canada's Cameco Corp (CCO.TO), while France's Areva (AREVA.PA)
holds stakes in numerous projects in the region.
Last year, the government indicated it was reviewing its
policy to ensure that unnecessary regulation would not inhibit
growth by "unduly" restricting foreign ownership.
But, in October, Oliver said there was no appetite at that
time to move forward with changes to foreign ownership rules.
(Additional reporting by David Ljunggren and Jeffrey Jones;
editing by Peter Galloway and Rob Wilson)
((firstname.lastname@example.org)(+1 416 941 8136)(Reuters
Keywords: CANADA MINISTER/MINING
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