Survey of Energy Resources 2007
Uranium - Production
Commercially, uranium is presently produced in 19 countries, although less than half produce significant quantities. The nine leading countries, ranked in order of production, are Australia, Canada, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, Namibia, Niger, Uzbekistan, the United States and Ukraine. Together these nine countries provided almost 95% of the world's uranium mine output in 2005. The two largest producers, Canada and Australia, alone account for more than 50% of world uranium production (Fig. 6-3).
Prompted by the current and expected uranium market prices, several countries which historically produced uranium but discontinued for economic reasons (e.g., Argentina, Bulgaria, Chile, Finland) have begun to reconsider reopening closed mines or have stepped up exploration activities. Likewise, other countries previously not producing uranium have boosted efforts to explore the possibility of eventually launching uranium mining activities (e.g., Egypt, Indonesia, Iran and Nigeria).
During the period 2004 to 2006 global uranium production fluctuated between 40 260 tU and 41 700 tU, a 15% increase over the 2000 - 2003 production level. Although mine production alone satisfies only 60% of reactor requirements, uranium supply and demand remain in balance as secondary sources have made up the difference from stockpiles of natural and enriched uranium, the reprocessing of spent fuel and the re-enrichment of depleted uranium tails.
Open-pit and underground mining and conventional milling continue to be the dominant uranium production technologies, accounting for 30% and 38% respectively of total production in 2005. While the share of open-pit mining has remained fairly constant since 2000, the share of underground mining has declined by 4%. In-situ leaching (ISL) has become the technology of choice in Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, Uzbekistan and Australia (Beverley mine) and the ISL share has increased by 4% to a 21% share in 2005. Uranium is also produced as a co-product or by-product of copper and gold operations. The volumes of by-product uranium depend on the market situations of the respective main products; in 2005 they contributed 11.1% to global fresh uranium supply. Small amounts of uranium are also recovered from water treatment and environmental-restoration activities.