Commodities.

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January

BHP Billiton and ArcelorMittal discuss a proposed deal that would see the two companies' iron ore assets in Guinea and Liberia combined.

Malawi's Vice President, Joyce Banda, announced a uranium exploration and extraction deal with India.

Gold prices, which had run up to a new nominal high above $1,200/0z at the end of 2009, lowered slightly to $1,100/0z. Mali estimated that production in the country for the year would top 52.4t (about $1bn), up 6% on the previous year. Randgold Resources, Merrex Gold, AngloGold Ashanti, Resolute Mining, Carlton Resources and IAMGOLD all announced additional investments in the country.

February

Copper prices hit a 16-month high, having risen some 50% in the previous six months from $5,000/t to $7,500/t. Simultaneously, LME warehouse stocks of the red metal reached an eight-month high of over 500,000/t.

The Bank of Zambia revised its growth forecast for 2010 from 6.3% to 7%. The 576,000/t Zambia exports accounts for half of its GDP. The Zambian Development Agency estimates that 15,000 of the 18,000 jobs lost in the country in the downturn would be recovered as a result of Chinese investment.

Namibia, producer of 10% of the world's uranium in 2009 - accounting for 12% of its GDP - stepped up production in the face of diminished diamond exports and increased demand for uranium worldwide.

Only two thirds of the amount of uranium consumed globally last year was actually mined that year.

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Michael Dittmar, from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, told the MIT-published Technology Review that "... without access to the military stocks, the civilian Western uranium stocks will be exhausted by 2013."

The opportunities this affords African producers are being seized. Namibian production is expected to quadruple over the next five years.

Despite political uncertainty in Niger, Areva continued its programme of investment in uranium mines in the country. Areva expects that its new $1.5bn Imouraren mine will be operational by the end of 2013.

Malawi announced that yellowcake uranium exports reached $200m last year.

March

Rio Tinto and Chinalco (the Aluminium Company of China), its largest shareholder, announce a joint venture partnership over its half of the Simandou iron ore deposit in Guinea - estimated to contain between 2.25-4bt. Chinalco said it would invest $1.4bn in the new partnership company in return for 47% of the new venture.

The deal marked a turnaround in...

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