Survey of Energy Resources 2007
Uranium Country Notes
Canadian production began in 1942 when uranium was extracted from pitchblende ore from Port Radium, Northwest Territories, which had been mined since the 1930s for its radium content. During the post-war period, uranium deposits were discovered and developed in the Beaverlodge area of northern Saskatchewan and in the Elliot Lake area of Ontario. Demand for uranium increased in the 1960s as the use of nuclear power expanded. After the discovery of large high-grade deposits in the Athabasca Basin in the 1970s, Saskatchewan became Canada's main producer and output from Ontario was gradually phased out, ceasing altogether in 1996.
Canada is the world's largest producer of uranium, with 28% of total world production (2005), about 85% of which is destined for export. In 2005, Canada produced a total of 11 629 tU, valued at over US$ 520 million, all from northern Saskatchewan. This output comes from three production centres, two of which are operated by Cameco Corporation (Key Lake/McArthur River and Rabbit Lake) and the other operated by AREVA Resources Canada Inc. (McClean Lake). The ore is mined from high-grade deposits (up to 23% uranium) which have grades that are one to two orders of magnitude greater than found elsewhere in the world. Production in 2006 appears to have declined by 15% to 9 863 tU.
Two additional mines - Cigar Lake and Midwest - are scheduled to begin production in Saskatchewan in the future. The Cigar Lake Mine is currently being developed and is expected to begin production in 2009. Serious flooding of the underground development area in October 2006 has delayed the start-up date, which had been scheduled for early-2008. The project leader, Cameco, is devising a comprehensive remediation plan. A proposal to develop the Midwest deposit is undergoing an environmental assessment.
Canada currently holds 9% of world uranium reserves; at 1 January 2006 it had 333 000 tU of RAR at up to US$ 80/kgU and 96 000 tU of IR at less than US$ 80/kgU, while undiscovered resources at below US$ 130/kgU are estimated to be 850 000 tU, of which 150 000 tU are PR and 700 000 tU are SR.
Owing to rising uranium prices, exploration is presently very active in many regions of Canada and the prospects for finding additional resources are excellent.