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World Uranium Mining Production

(Updated July 2013)

  • About 64 percent of the world's production of uranium from mines is from Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia.
  • An increasing proportion of uranium, now 45%, is produced by in situ leaching.
  • After a decade of falling mine production to 1993, output of uranium has generally risen since then and now meets 86% of demand for power generation.

Kazakhstan produces the largest share of uranium from mines (36.5% of world supply from mines in 2012), followed by Canada (15%) and Australia (12%).

Production from mines (tonnes U)

Country 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 
Kazakhstan 4357 5279 6637 8521 14020 17803 19451 21317
Canada 11628 9862 9476 9000 10173 9783 9145 8999
Australia 9516 7593 8611 8430 7982 5900 5983 6991
Niger (est) 3093 3434 3153 3032 3243 4198 4351 4667
Namibia 3147 3067 2879 4366 4626 4496 3258 4495
Russia 3431 3262 3413 3521 3564 3562 2993 2872
Uzbekistan 2300 2260 2320 2338 2429 2400 2500 2400
USA 1039 1672 1654 1430 1453 1660 1537 1596
China (est) 750 750 712 769 750 827 885 1500
Malawi         104 670 846 1101
Ukraine (est) 800 800 846 800 840 850 890 960
South Africa 674 534 539 655 563 583 582 465
India (est) 230 177 270 271 290 400 400 385
Brazil 110 190 299 330 345 148 265 231
Czech Republic 408 359 306 263 258 254 229 228
Romania (est) 90 90 77 77 75 77 77 90
Germany 94 65 41 0 0 8 51 50
Pakistan (est) 45 45 45 45 50 45 45 45
France 7 5 4 5 8 7 6 3
total world 41 719 39 444 41 282 43 764 50 772 53 671 53 493 58 394
tonnes U3O8 49 199 46 516 48 683 51 611 59 875 63 295 63 084 68 864
percentage of world demand* 65% 63% 64% 68% 78% 78% 85% 86%

*WNA Market Report data

Mining methods have been changing. In 1990, 55% of world production came from underground mines, but this shrunk dramatically to 1999, with 33% then. From 2000 the new Canadian mines increased it again, and with Olympic Dam it is now 37%. In situ leach (ISL, or ISR) mining has been steadily increasing its share of the total, mainly due to Kazakhstan. In 2012 production was as follows:

Method tonnes U %
Conventional underground (except Olympic Dam)* 16,324 27.9%
Conventional open pit 11,906 20.4%
In situ leach (ISL) 26,263 45.0%
By-product* 3851 6.6%

* Considering Olympic Dam as by-product rather than in underground category

Conventional mines have a mill where the ore is crushed, ground and then leached with sulfuric acid to dissolve the uranium oxides. At the mill of a conventional mine, or the treatment plant of an ISL operation, the uranium then separated by ion exchange before being dried and packed, usually as U3O8. Some mills and ISL operations use carbonate leaching instead of sulfuric acid, depending on the orebody. Where uranium is recovered as a by-product, eg of copper or phosphate, the treatment process is likely to be more complex.

During the 1990s the uranium production industry was consolidated by takeovers, mergers and closures, but this has diversified in recent years with Kazakhstan's diverse ownership structure. In 2012, eight companies marketed 82% of the world's uranium mine production:

Company tonnes U %
KazAtomProm 8863 15
Areva 8641 15
Cameco 8437 14
ARMZ - Uranium One 7629 13
Rio Tinto 5435 9
BHP Billiton 3386 6
Paladin 3056 5
Navoi 2400 4
Other 10,548 18
Total 58 394 100%
Note that these figures are based on marketed shares, not joint venture shares (eg Areva markets all Katco production).

The largest-producing uranium mines in 2012 were:

Mine Country Main owner Type Production (tU) % of world
McArthur River Canada Cameco underground 7520 13
Olympic Dam Australia BHP Billiton by-product/
underground
3386 6
Ranger Australia ERA (Rio Tinto 68%) open pit 3146 5
Arlit Niger Somair/ Areva open pit 3065 5
Tortkuduk (est) Kazakhstan Katco JV/ Areva ISL 2661 5
Rossing Namibia Rio Tinto (69%) open pit 2289 4
Budenovskoye 2 Kazakhstan Karatau JV/Kazatomprom-Uranium One ISL 2135 4
Kraznokamensk Russia ARMZ underground 2011 3
Langer Heinrich Namibia Paladin open pit 1955 3
South Inkai Kazakhstan Betpak Dala JV/ Uranium One ISL 1870 3
Inkai Kazakhstan Inkai JV/Cameco ISL 1701 3
Central Mynkuduk Kazakhstan Ken Dala JV/ Kazatomprom ISL 1622 3
Akouta Niger Cominak/ Areva underground 1506 3
Rabbit Lake Canada Cameco underground 1479 3
Budenovskoye 1&3 Kazakhstan Akbastau JV/ Kazatomprom-Uranium One ISL 1203 2
Top 15 total   37 549 64%

World Uranium Production and Demand

Source:World Nuclear Association

New Mines

Since the recovery of uranium prices since about 2003, there has been a lot of activity in preparing to open new mines in many countries. The WNA reference scenario projects world uranium demand as about 72,680 tU in 2015, and most of this will need to come directly from mines (in 2010, 22% came from secondary sources and this shrunk to 14% in 2012).

Some of the new mines expected to reach substantial production in the next few years are:

Vitimsky Russia 2013
Four Mile Australia 2013
Cigar Lake Canada 2013
Talvivaara (by-product) Finland 2014
Imouraren Niger 2015
Husab Namibia 2015

Estimated future production from existing mines plus new projects such as these is however not sufficient to meet the demand requirements  to 2030 in the WNA 2011 Market Report (2030 demand 137,000 tU in upper scenario, 108,000 tU in reference scenario; 2030 primary production 97,000 tU in upper scenario, 89,000 tU in reference scenario). However, price signals leading to increased production and also secondary sources will close the gap.

Known Recoverable Resources of Uranium 2011

  tonnes U percentage of world
Australia
1,661,000
31%
Kazakhstan
629,000
12%
Russia
487,200
9%
Canada
468,700
9%
Niger
421,000
8%
South Africa
279,100
5%
Brazil
276,700
5%
Namibia
261,000
5%
USA
207,400
4%
China
166,100
3%
Ukraine
119,600
2%
Uzbekistan
96,200
2%
Mongolia
55,700
1%
Jordan
33,800
1%
other
164,000
3%
World total
5,327,200
 

Reasonably Assured Resources plus Inferred Resources, to US$ 130/kg U, 1/1/11, from OECD NEA & IAEA, Uranium 2011: Resources, Production and Demand ("Red Book").
The total to US$ 260/kg U is 7,096,600 tonnes U, and Namibia moves up ahead of Niger.

Sources:
World Nuclear Association