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World Uranium Mining Production

(Updated 22 May 2015)

  • Two-thirds 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 (41% of world supply from mines in 2013), followed by Canada (16%) and Australia (9%).

Production from mines (tonnes U)

Country 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Kazakhstan 6637 8521 14020 17803 19451 21317 22451 23127
Canada 9476 9000 10173 9783 9145 8999 9331 9134
Australia 8611 8430 7982 5900 5983 6991 6350 5001
Niger  3153 3032 3243 4198 4351 4667 4518 4057
Namibia 2879 4366 4626 4496 3258 4495 4323 3255
Russia 3413 3521 3564 3562 2993 2872 3135 2990
Uzbekistan (est) 2320 2338 2429 2400 2500 2400 2400 2400
USA 1654 1430 1453 1660 1537 1596 1792 1919
China (est) 712 769 750 827 885 1500 1500 1500
Ukraine (est) 846 800 840 850 890 960 922 926
South Africa 539 655 563 583 582 465 531 573
India (est) 270 271 290 400 400 385 385 385
Malawi     104 670 846 1101 1132 369
Brazil (est) 299 330 345 148 265 231 231 231
Czech Republic 306 263 258 254 229 228 215 193
Romania (est) 77 77 75 77 77 90 77 77
Pakistan (est) 45 45 50 45 45 45 45 45
Germany 41 0 0 8 51 50 27 33
France 4 5 8 7 6 3 5 3
Total world 41 282 43 764 50 772 53 671 53 493 58 394 59,370 56,217
tonnes U3O8 48 683 51 611 59 875 63 295 63 084 68 864 70,015 66,297
percentage of world demand* 64% 68% 78% 78% 85% 86% 92% 85%

Kazakh total includes Stepnogorsk. *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 48%. 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 2014 production was as follows:

Method tonnes U %
Underground & open pit (except Olympic Dam)* 23,679 42%
In situ leach (ISL) 28,467 51%
By-product* 4,107 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 (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. In 2014, ten companies marketed 88% of the world's uranium mine production:

Company tonnes U %
KazAtomProm 13801 25
Cameco 8956 16
ARMZ - Uranium One 6944 12
Areva 6496 12
BHP Billiton 3351 6
CNNC & CGN 2684 5
Paladin 2316 4
Navoi 2400 4
Rio Tinto 2296 4
Other 6973 12
Total 56,217 100%

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 2014 were:

Mine Country Main owner Type Production (tU) % of world
McArthur River Canada Cameco (69.8%) underground 7356 13
Tortkuduk & Myunkum Kazakhstan Katco JV/ Areva ISL 4322 8
Olympic Dam Australia BHP Billiton by-product/
underground
3351 6
SOMAIR Niger Areva (63.6%) open pit 2331 5
Budenovskoye 2 Kazakhstan Karatau JV/ Kazatomprom-Uranium One ISL 2084 4
South Inkai Kazakhstan Betpak Dala JV/ Uranium One ISL 2002 3
Priargunsky Russia ARMZ underground 1970 4
Langer Heinrich Namibia Paladin open pit 1947 4
Inkai Kazakhstan Inkai JV/Cameco ISL 1922 3
Central Mynkuduk Kazakhstan Ken Dala JSC/ Kazatomprom ISL 1790 3
Rabbit Lake Canada Cameco underground 1602 3
Budenovskoye 1, 3 & 4 Kazakhstan Akbastau JV/ Kazatomprom-Uranium One ISL 1594 3
COMINAK Niger Areva (34%) underground 1501 3
Rossing Namibia Rio Tinto (69%) open pit 1308 2
Southern Moinkum & Khanzhugan Kazakhstan Mining Co Taukent/ Kazatomprom ISL 1174 2
Top 15 total   36,2550 64.5%

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 66,883 tU in 2015, 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 2013-15, which will come in as secondary supply in the next few years.

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 ??

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