World Uranium Mining Production

(Updated 19 May 2016)

  • Over two-thirds of the world's production of uranium from mines is from Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia.
  • An increasing amount of uranium, now 48%, 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 (39% of world supply from mines in 2015), followed by Canada (22%) and Australia (9%).

Production from mines (tonnes U)

Country 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Kazakhstan 6637 8521 14020 17803 19451 21317 22451 23127 23800
Canada 9476 9000 10173 9783 9145 8999 9331 9134 13325
Australia 8611 8430 7982 5900 5983 6991 6350 5001 5672
Niger 3153 3032 3243 4198 4351 4667 4518 4057 4116
Russia 3413 3521 3564 3562 2993 2872 3135 2990 3055
Namibia 2879 4366 4626 4496 3258 4495 4323 3255 2993
Uzbekistan (est) 2320 2338 2429 2400 2500 2400 2400 2400 2385
China (est) 712 769 750 827 885 1500 1500 1500 1616
USA 1654 1430 1453 1660 1537 1596 1792 1919 1256
Ukraine (est) 846 800 840 850 890 960 922 926 1200
South Africa 539 655 563 583 582 465 531 573 393
India (est) 270 271 290 400 400 385 385 385 385
Czech Republic 306 263 258 254 229 228 215 193 155
Romania (est) 77 77 75 77 77 90 77 77 77
Pakistan (est) 45 45 50 45 45 45 45 45 45
Brazil (est) 299 330 345 148 265 326 192 55 40
France 4 5 8 7 6 3 5 3 2
Germany 41 0 0 8 51 50 27 33 0
Malawi     104 670 846 1101 1132 369 0
Total world 41 282 43 764 50 772 53 671 53 493 58 489 59,331 56,041 60,514
tonnes U3O8 48 683 51 611 59 875 63 295 63 084 68 976 69,969 66,089 71,364
percentage of world demand* 64% 68% 78% 78% 85% 86% 92% 85% 90%

Kazakh total includes Stepnogorsk. *Data from World Nuclear Association's The Nuclear Fuel Report

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 about 40%. In situ leach (ISL, or ISR) mining has been steadily increasing its share of the total, mainly due to Kazakhstan, and in 2014 for the first time was more than half of production. In 2015 production was as follows:

Method tonnes U %
In situ leach (ISL) 29,197 48%
Underground & open pit (except Olympic Dam)* 27,791 46%
By-product* 3,525 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 (especially in the USA) 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. Over half of uranium mine production is from state-owned mining companies, some of which prioritise secure supply over market considerations. In 2015, eleven companies marketed 89% of the world's uranium mine production:

Company tonnes U %
KazAtomProm 12681 21
Cameco 10926 18
Areva 9368 15
ARMZ - Uranium One 7849 13
CNNC & CGN 3303 5
BHP Billiton 3179 5
Rio Tinto 2757 5
Navoi 2385 4
Paladin 1435 2
Other 6631 11
Total 60,514 100%

Note that these figures are based on marketed shares, not joint venture shares (e.g. Areva markets all Katco production).

The largest-producing uranium mines in 2015 were:

Mine Country Main owner Type Production (tU) % of world
McArthur River Canada Cameco (69.8%) underground 7354 12
Cigar Lake Canada Cameco (50%) underground 4345 7
Tortkuduk & Myunkum Kazakhstan Katco JV/Areva ISL 4109 7
Olympic Dam Australia BHP Billiton by-product/
underground
3179 5
SOMAIR Niger Areva (63.6%) open pit 2509 4
Inkai Kazakhstan Inkai JV/Cameco ISL 2234 4
Budenovskoye 2 Kazakhstan Karatau JV/Kazatomprom-Uranium One ISL 2061 4
South Inkai Kazakhstan Betpak Dala JV/Uranium One ISL 2055 3
Priargunsky Russia ARMZ underground 1977 3
Langer Heinrich Namibia Paladin open pit 1937 3
Central Mynkuduk Kazakhstan Ken Dala JSC/ Kazatomprom ISL 1847 3
Ranger Australia Rio Tinto (68%) open pit 1700 3
Budenovskoye 1, 3 & 4 Kazakhstan Akbastau JV/Kazatomprom-Uranium One ISL 1642 3
Rabbit Lake Canada Cameco underground 1621 3
COMINAK Niger Areva (34%) underground 1607 3
Top 15 total   40,177 66.4%

In some rows there is more than a single mine, but they are operated and reported jointly.

World Uranium Production and Demand

Source: World Nuclear Association

New Mines

Following the recovery of uranium prices since about 2003, there was a lot of activity in preparing to open new mines in many countries. The World Nuclear Association reference scenario projects world uranium demand as about 65,220 tU in 2016, and most of this will need to come directly from mines. Due to the absence of Japanese consumption in the last couple of years and low prices there has been some stockpile build-up over 2013-16, which will come in as secondary supply in the next few years.

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

Husab Namibia 2016
Salamanca Spain 2017
Temrezli Turkey 2018
Mkuju River Tanzania 2018
Mulga Rock Australia 2019
Wiluna Australia 2020

Known Recoverable Resources of Uranium 2013

  tonnes U percentage of world
Australia
1,706,100
29%
Kazakhstan
679,300
12%
Russia
505,900
9%
Canada
493,900
8%
Niger
404,900
7%
Namibia
382,800
6%
South Africa
338,100
6%
Brazil
276,100
5%
USA
207,400
4%
China
199,100
4%
Mongolia
141,500
2%
Ukraine
117,700
2%
Uzbekistan
91,300
2%
Botswana
68,800
1%
Tanzania
58,500
1%
Jordan
40,000
1%
Other
191,500
3%
World total
5,902,900
 

Reasonably Assured Resources plus Inferred Resources, to US$ 130/kg U, 1/1/13, from OECD NEA & IAEA, Uranium 2014: Resources, Production and Demand ('Red Book').
The total to US$ 260/kg U is 7.635 million tonnes U, and Namibia moves up ahead of Niger, and USA ranks just after Canada..

Sources:
World Nuclear Association


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