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World Uranium Mining Production

(Updated July 2014)

  • About 65 percent of the world's production of uranium from mines is from Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia.
  • An increasing proportion of uranium, now 46%, 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 over 90% of demand for power generation.

Kazakhstan produces the largest share of uranium from mines (38% of world supply from mines in 2013), followed by Canada (16%) and Australia (11%).

Production from mines (tonnes U)

Country 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012  2013 
Kazakhstan 5279 6637 8521 14020 17803 19451 21317 22574
Canada 9862 9476 9000 10173 9783 9145 8999 9332
Australia 7593 8611 8430 7982 5900 5983 6991 6350
Niger (est) 3434 3153 3032 3243 4198 4351 4667 4528
Namibia 3067 2879 4366 4626 4496 3258 4495 4315
Russia 3262 3413 3521 3564 3562 2993 2872 3135
Uzbekistan (est) 2260 2320 2338 2429 2400 2500 2400 2400
USA 1672 1654 1430 1453 1660 1537 1596 1835
China (est) 750 712 769 750 827 885 1500 1450
Malawi       104 670 846 1101 1132
Ukraine 800 846 800 840 850 890 960 1075
South Africa 534 539 655 563 583 582 465 540
India (est) 177 270 271 290 400 400 385 400
Czech Republic 359 306 263 258 254 229 228 225
Brazil 190 299 330 345 148 265 231 198
Romania (est) 90 77 77 75 77 77 90 80
Pakistan (est) 45 45 45 50 45 45 45 41
Germany 65 41 0 0 8 51 50 27
France 5 4 5 8 7 6 3 0
Total world 39 444 41 282 43 764 50 772 53 671 53 493 58 394 59,637
tonnes U3O8 46 516 48 683 51 611 59 875 63 295 63 084 68 864 70,330
percentage of world demand* 63% 64% 68% 78% 78% 85% 86% 92%

*WNA Global Nuclear Fuel 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 2013 production was as follows:

Method tonnes U %
In situ leach (ISL) 27,496 46%
Conventional underground (except Olympic Dam)* 17,198 29%
Conventional open pit 10,977 18%
By-product* 3,966 7%

* 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 2013, eight companies marketed 82% of the world's uranium mine production:

Company tonnes U %
KazAtomProm 9402 16
Cameco 9144 15
Areva 8768 15
ARMZ - Uranium One 8160 14
Rio Tinto 4541 8
BHP Billiton 3399 6
Paladin 3230 5
Navoi 2400 4
Other 10,593 18
Total 59,637 100%
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 2013 were:

Mine Country Main owner Type Production (tU) % of world
McArthur River Canada Cameco (69.8%) underground 7744 13
Olympic Dam Australia BHP Billiton by-product/
underground
3399 6
SOMAIR Niger Areva (63.6%) open pit 2730 5
Tortkuduk (est) Kazakhstan Katco JV/ Areva ISL 2563 4
Ranger Australia ERA (Rio Tinto 68%) open pit 2510 4
Priargunsky Russia ARMZ underground 2133 4
Budenovskoye 2 Kazakhstan Karatau JV/Kazatomprom-Uranium One ISL 2115 3
Langer Heinrich Namibia Paladin open pit 2098 4
Inkai Kazakhstan Inkai JV/Cameco ISL 2047 3
Rossing Namibia Rio Tinto (69%) open pit 2031 3
South Inkai Kazakhstan Betpak Dala JV/ Uranium One ISL 2030 3
Rabbit Lake Canada Cameco underground 1587 3
Central Mynkuduk Kazakhstan Ken Dala JSC/ Kazatomprom ISL 1559 3
COMINAK Niger Areva (34%) underground 1508 3
Budenovskoye 1&3 Kazakhstan Akbastau JV/ Kazatomprom-Uranium One ISL 1499 2
Top 15 total   37,554 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:

Khiagda Russia 2014
Four Mile Australia 2014
Cigar Lake Canada 2014
Husab Namibia 2015
Mkuju River Tanzania 2016
Imouraren Niger ??

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 2013 Market Report (2030 demand 119,000 tU in upper scenario, 97,450 tU in reference scenario; 2030 primary production 60,000 tU in upper scenario, 53,000 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