World Uranium Mining Production

(Updated March 2019)

  • Over two-thirds of the world's production of uranium from mines is from Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia.
  • An increasing amount of uranium, now 50%, 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 almost all the demand for power generation.

Kazakhstan produces the largest share of uranium from mines (39% of world supply from mines in 2017), followed by Canada (22%) and Australia (10%).

Production from mines (tonnes U)

Country 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Kazakhstan 8521 14,020 17,803 19,451 21,317 22,451 23,127 23,607 24,586 23,321
Canada 9000 10,173 9783 9145 8999 9331 9134 13,325 14,039 13,116
Australia 8430 7982 5900 5983 6991 6350 5001 5654 6315 5882
Niger 3032 3243 4198 4351 4667 4518 4057 4116 3479 3449
Namibia 4366 4626 4496 3258 4495 4323 3255 2993 3654 4224
Russia 3521 3564 3562 2993 2872 3135 2990 3055 3004 2917
Uzbekistan (est) 2338 2429 2400 2500 2400 2400 2400 2385 2404 2404
China (est) 769 750 827 885 1500 1500 1500 1616 1616 1885
USA 1430 1453 1660 1537 1596 1792 1919 1256 1125 940
Ukraine (est) 800 840 850 890 960 922 926 1200 1005 550
South Africa 655 563 583 582 465 531 573 393 490 308
India (est) 271 290 400 400 385 385 385 385 385 421
Czech Republic 263 258 254 229 228 215 193 155 138 0
Romania (est) 77 75 77 77 90 77 77 77 50 0
Pakistan (est) 45 50 45 45 45 45 45 45 45 45
Brazil (est) 330 345 148 265 326 192 55 40 44 0
France 5 8 7 6 3 5 3 2 0 0
Germany 0 0 8 51 50 27 33 0 0 0
Malawi   104 670 846 1101 1132 369 0 0 0
Total world 43,853 50,772 53,671 53,493 58,493 59,331 56,041 60,304 62,379 59,462
tonnes U3O8 51,713 59,874 63,291 63,082 68,974 69,966 66,087 71,113 73,560 70,120
% of world demand* 70% 80% 84% 87% 94% 91% 85% 98% 96% 93%

* Data from the World Nuclear Association. NB: the figures in this table are liable to change as new data becomes available.

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. In situ leach (ISL, or ISR) mining has been steadily increasing its share of the total, mainly due to Kazakhstan, and in 2017 accounted for half of production. In 2017 production was as follows:

Method tonnes U %
In situ leach (ISL) 29,518 50%
Underground & open pit (except Olympic Dam)* 27,328 46%
By-product* 2686 4%

* 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 again with Kazakhstan's multinational ownership structure. Over half of uranium mine production is from state-owned mining companies, some of which prioritise secure supply over market considerations. In 2017, the top 10 companies by production marketed 85% of the world's uranium production:

Company tonnes U %
Kazatomprom 12,093 20
Cameco 9155 15
Orano 8031 13
Uranium One 5102 9
CNNC & CGN 3897 7
ARMZ 2917 5
Rio Tinto 2558 4
Navoi 2404 4
BHP Billiton 2381 4
Energy Asia 2218 4
General Atomics/Quasar  1556 3
Sopamin 1188 2
Paladin 970 2
Other 4753 8
Total 59,462 100%

Note that these figures are based on marketed share of production, not joint venture shares.

The largest-producing uranium mines in 2017 were:

Mine Country Main owner Type Production (tonnes U) % of world
Cigar Lake Canada Cameco (50%) underground 6924 12
McArthur River Canada Cameco (69.8%) underground 6193 10
Tortkuduk & Myunkum Kazakhstan Katco JV/Areva ISL 3519 6
Olympic Dam Australia BHP Billiton by-product/
underground
2381 4
Budenovskoye 2 Kazakhstan Karatau JV/Kazatomprom-Uranium One ISL 2359 4
Inkai Kazakhstan Inkai JV/Cameco ISL 2202 4
SOMAIR Niger Areva (63.6%) open pit 2116 4
South Inkai Kazakhstan Betpak Dala JV/Uranium One ISL 2037 3
Ranger Australia Rio Tinto (68%) open pit 1945 3
Budenovskoye 1, 3 & 4 Kazakhstan Akbastau JV/Kazatomprom-Uranium One ISL 1940 3
Top 10 total   31,616 53%

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

World uranium production and reactor requirements (tonnes U)

                                    

Sources: OECD-NEA/IAEA, World Nuclear Association

Table 2: Uranium resources by country in 2017

  tonnes U percentage of world
Australia
1,818,300
30%
Kazakhstan
842,200
14%
Canada
514,400
8%
Russia
485,600
8%
Namibia 442,100* 7%
South Africa
322,400
5%
China 290,400 5%
Niger
280,000*
5%
Brazil
276,800
5%
Uzbekistan
139,200*
2%
Ukraine
114,100
2%
Mongolia 113,500 2%
Botswana
73,500*
1%
Tanzania
58,200*
1%
USA 47,200 1%
Jordan
43,500
1%
Other
280,600
4%
World total
6,142,600
 

Identified resources recoverable (reasonably assured resources plus inferred resources), to US$130/kg U, 1/1/17, from OECD NEA & IAEA, Uranium 2018: Resources, Production and Demand ('Red Book'). The total recoverable identified resources to $260/kg U is 7.989 million tonnes U.
Identified resources in situ to $130/kg U are 8.122 Mt, and to $260/kg U, 10.653 Mt.
* IAEA estimate.


Notes & references

General Sources

OECD-NEA & IAEA, Uranium 2018: Resources, Production and Demand ('Red Book')
World Nuclear Association, The Nuclear Fuel Report 2015 & 2017


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