Goldman Sachs getting out of coal, uranium

Goldman Sachs, the biggest trading firm on Wall Street, will wind down its uranium trading business and may sell its coal mine subsidiary in Colombia, according to a Senate report released last week.

Speaking ahead of a Senate hearing last Thursday, the co-head of Goldman Sachs' Commodities Trading Gregory Agran said "the uranium business had posed no environmental risks and the bank never took physical possession of the material," Reuters reported.

"Notwithstanding these various considerations, given the misconceptions about this business, we have decided to manage down Nufcor's assets to zero," Agran said in remarks to the committee.

Goldman got into the uranium trading market when it purchased Nufcor from Constellation Energy Group in 2009. That year, as uranium prices soared prior to the Fukushima disaster in 2011, Goldman and Deutsche Bank were the only banks actively trading uranium. The two banks were handling nearly a third of all spot trades in the uranium market according to sources quoted by Reuters. Goldman's trading of yellowcake, or U308, rose tenfold from 2009 to reach 12.8 million pounds in 2013, the Senate report states- with the value of its uranium inventories surpassing $240 million.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs is considering selling Colombian National Resources (CNR), its coal mining subsidiary in Colombia. "Goldman bought the mines in 2010 and 2012, but the investments have been troubled… Because of new environmental regulations, CNR has not exported any coal since January," according to the report.

Goldman Sachs has been bearish on coal since May, when bank analysts said that with Chinese demand for imported coal past its peak, demand for seaborne thermal coal will grow a mere 2% a year on average to 2018. This, they added, will leave coal prices too weak to generate profitable investment from new mines and infrastructure.