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China’s leading nuclear utility buys 25% stake in Paladin’s Namibia uranium mine

Langer Heinrich mine | Photo from Paladin Energy image gallery

China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) – the country’s leading nuclear utility – has bought 25% of Paladin Energy’s (TSE:PDN) flagship uranium mine, Langer Heinrich, in Namibia.

Through its wholly-owned subsidiary China Uranium Corp., CNNC paid $190 million for the stake. Under the agreement, the Asian company will be able to buy one-quarter of production at spot market prices.

“There is also an opportunity for Paladin to benefit by securing additional long term offtake arrangements with CNNC, at arm’s length market rates, from Paladin’s share of Langer Heinrich production,” Paladin noted in a news release on Monday.

Paladin has called the joint venture a “formidable partnership.”

“This development also reinforces the importance of Namibia in the global uranium mining context with the key Chinese nuclear organisations now represented in uranium production in Namibia,” Paladin wrote.

Completion of the deal is subject to Chinese regulatory approvals which are expected by mid-2014. In the meantime, CNNC will pay a $20 million non-refundable deposit to the Australia-based company.

Langer Heinrich began producing uranium in 2007 and has undergone two stages of expansion. The operation has a current design capacity of 5.2Mlb of uranium concentrate per year and is targeting production on 5.7Mlb in 2014.

Paladin will use the cash injection primarily to pay off debts. The Australian miner has been eager to find a partner for the Namibian project for some time now. Last August the company lost 20% on its share price after it announced that negotiations with potential buys had failed; the company didn’t think the offered price would “appropriately” reflect the “strategic value of the asset.”

On Monday, the company gained nearly 10% on the Toronto Exchange, trading at $0.60 per share. Over the past 12 months, Paladin has lost more than 50% of its value.