Survey of Energy Resources 2007
Uranium Country Notes
Between the late 1940s and the early 1970s uranium exploration was pursued as an adjunct to exploration for gold, centred on the quartz-pebble conglomerates in the Witwatersrand Basin in the Transvaal. The 1973-1974 oil crisis triggered intensified exploration for uranium, leading to the country's first primary uranium mine (Beisa) being commissioned in 1981. Output as a by-product of gold mining had begun 30 years previously, and by 1959 26 mines in the Witwatersrand Basin were supplying 17 processing plants, resulting in an annual output of nearly 5 000 tonnes.
Between the late 1980s and the early 1990s, a substantial reduction in production capacity took place; subsequent closures brought the total of operational production centres at the beginning of 2002 down to two, each served by a single mine. The companies in production were Vaal River Operations at Klerksdorp, and Palabora Mining Company in the Northern Province; uranium production by the latter company, as a by-product of copper mining, ceased during the year.
Uranium production in South Africa is a by-product of gold mining and thus highly dependent on the dynamics of the world gold markets. Gold output in South Africa declined by some 20% between 2004 and 2006 and uranium production followed suit: 747 tU in 2004, 674 tU in 2005 and an estimated 640 tU in 2006. Total uranium output in 2005 was the eleventh largest national level in the world. The cumulative output of uranium in South Africa up to the end of 2005 exceeded 159 000 tonnes.
South Africa's uranium production will receive a boost as sxr Uranium One's Dominium mine comes into production during 2007; processing of underground ore had begun by the beginning of March, with the initial annual production rate planned to be 1 460 tU.
The country's RAR (at up to US$ 80/kgU), consisting to a considerable extent of quartz-pebble conglomerates, came to just over 177 000 tonnes by the end of 2005, equivalent to 6.7% of the world total. Further resources are on a commensurately large scale: about 78 000 tU of RAR recoverable at
US$ 80-130/ kgU, over 85 000 tU of IR recoverable at up to US$ 130/kgU, 110 000 tU of PR in the same cost range, and more than 1.1 million tU in the speculative category (with no cost range assigned).