Survey of Energy Resources Interim Update 2009
SER 2007 version >Part I: Uranium Country Notes update
Whilst Australia's Reasonably Assured Resources (RAR) recoverable at below US$ 40/kgU show a marginal increase in the latest Red Book in comparison with the previous (2005) edition, the other cost bands exhibit decreases, so that there is an overall decline in RAR of 22 000 tU, or nearly 3%. On the other hand, the latest assessments show a substantial rise in Inferred Resources (IR): these are up by 122 000 tonnes overall, with a strong increase in the lowest cost category far outweighing decreases in the US$ 40-80 and US$ 80-130/kgU cost bands. These changes reflect the definition of additional resources at six Australian deposits, as at the beginning of 2007. Since then, additional reserves/resources have been announced for the Olympic Dam and Ranger 3 deposits and the first estimates released of resources at the recently-discovered Four Mile deposit, located 8 km northwest of the Beverley mine in South Australia. Geoscience Australia's estimate of RAR at up to US$ 80/kgU as at December 2007 was 983 000 tU, 269 000 tonnes (or 37.7%) more than at 1 January, while the corresponding IR level was 98 000 tonnes (nearly 20%) higher.
In May 2008 Uranium One announced the suspension of development work on its Honeymoon mine in South Australia.
Australia's total output of uranium recovered from its flood-affected level of
7 593 tU in 2006 to 8 611 in 2007. Early estimates of 2008 production point to a modest decline of about 2% for the year.
According to the National Geo Fund, as quoted in the IAEA/NEA's 2007 Red Book, identified uranium resources in Bulgaria amounted to 19 809 tU (in situ) at the beginning of 2007, of which some 60% was underground-mineable and 40% amenable to in-situ leaching (ISL) extraction. However, mining costs are not available and as the resource is spread over a large number of small deposits the quantities involved are deemed to be 'economically and technologically unprofitable'.
The only uranium resources currently quoted for Bulgaria in the Red Book are 25 000 tU of Prognosticated Resources (PR), recoverable at less than US$ 130/kgU.
There is presently no production of uranium in Bulgaria: cumulative output to date has been 16 357 tonnes
The decrease of just over 20 000 tU in Canada's total Identified Resources since the level reported in the 2007 Survey is largely attributable to mining depletion - uranium output during 2006 and 2007 was some 19 300 tonnes.
In February 2009 Cameco stated that the Cigar Lake mine, whose development was seriously retarded by flooding in October 2006, was no longer expected to begin operating in 2011. A new production date would be set after the mine had been dewatered, the conditions underground evaluated and a new mining plan devised.
Canadian output declined by nearly 4% to 9 476 tU in 2007.
Total RAR at 1 January 2007 show an increase of over 10 000 tU in comparison with the comparable level reported for the 2005 Red Book. The increments in resources are concentrated in the less than US$ 40 and
US$ 80-130/kgU cost bands and reflect increases in known ISL mining resources in the Erdos Basin (Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region) and the Yili Basin (Xinjiang Autonomous Region).
New production centres are under construction at Fuzhou and Chongyi, both in Giangxi province in southeast China.
China's production of uranium in 2007 has been reported by the World Nuclear Association to be 712 tonnes, marginally lower than the estimated level of 750 tonnes per annum quoted for the previous four years.
While India's recoverable Identified Resources, as reported in the 2007 Red Book, show moderate increases over the levels in the previous edition - RAR up 14.8%, IR up 7.6% - there has been a major change in PR, which have risen from 12.1 to 50.9 thousand tonnes (in situ).
The increase in RAR is largely due to the promotion of a number of deposits from the IR category. The smaller rise in IR reflects in turn the firming-up of a few deposits formerly categorised as EAR-II (now termed Prognosticated Resources). The latter category has itself been substantially boosted by the identification of many new uranium-bearing areas in various parts of India.
The World Nuclear Association gives the estimated level of India's 2007 uranium production as 270 tonnes, somewhat higher than in recent years.
Re-evaluation of Jordan's uranium resources, taking into account increased demand and higher prices on the world market, has resulted in a general uplift to resource levels. RAR and IR, each in the less than US$ 40/kgU bracket, have both been increased by around 40%, and now stand at 44 and 68 thousand tU respectively. Jordan's PR have more than doubled, and have now reached nearly 85 000 tU, 80% of which is deemed to be recoverable at less than US$ 80/kgU.
The estimated level of by-product resources associated with phosphate rocks has been reduced from 70 000 tU to 59 360 tonnes as at the beginning of 2007.
No production of uranium has yet taken place in Jordan.
The figures reported in the 2007 Red Book imply a substantial drop in Kazakhstan's RAR, particularly in the US$ 80-130/kgU bracket, which is over 100 000 tonnes lower. The net reduction in the less than
US$ 80/kgU category is about 34 000 tU or some 9% - with output in 2006 and 2007 accounting for nearly 12 000 tonnes of the decrease.
At the beginning of 2007 there were six ISL production centres in operation in Kazakhstan, with an aggregate production capacity of 5 100 tU/yr, together with one production centre linked with the Vostok underground mine, with a capacity of 500 tU/yr. Eight more ISL production centres were in various stages of commissioning.
Uranium output has risen strongly in recent years, jumping by over 25% from 5 281 tU in 2006 to 6 637 in 2007. A provisional increase of some 28% has been reported for 2008, which would bring the year's total up to around 8 500 tU, thus edging Australia out of the number 2 slot among the world's uranium producers.
Proved reserves, as represented by RAR, fell by 6 200 tU between 2005 and 2007, all within the lowest cost band. This reduction appears to be almost entirely attributable to the production of some 5 950 tU during 2006 and 2007.
UraMin Inc. (a Canadian mining company acquired by AREVA in 2007) is working to bring a new production facility at its Trekkopje mine into operation.
The Canadian company Forsys Metals Corporation (now part of the Forrest Group, based in the Congo D.R.) is developing an open pit mine at its Valencia deposit (in the vicinity of the Rössing and Langer Heinrich deposits). It was granted a mining licence in August 2008.
Namibia's uranium output fell by just over 6% in 2007 to a total of 2 879 tU.
A major reappraisal of Niger's RAR has resulted in a total increase of nearly 35%, from about 180 000 to 243 000 tU, with a radically different breakdown over the cost bands. In contrast to the position shown in the 2005 Red Book, over 80% of these resources are now allocated to the US$ 80-130/kgU category, with the less than US$ 40/kgU band falling by more than 150 000 tonnes to around 21 000. IR show a 14 000 tU reduction overall, together with a reallocation over the cost bands.
Uranium exploration is being carried out by the existing two production companies, Somair and Cominak, as well as by two newcomers, AREVA NC Niger and China National Uranium Corporation. In August 2008 Cameco announced that it had taken an 11% interest in GoviEx, a company with exploration assets in Niger.
There was a decrease of over 8% in Niger's uranium production in 2007, to a total of 3 153 tU.
Comparing the assessments of Russian uranium resources appearing in the 2005 and 2007 Red Books, all categories show substantial increases across virtually all cost bands. The latest Red Book reports that 'a comprehensive technical and economic evaluation of numerous stand-by uranium deposits discovered and explored in the past 50 years' was conducted in 2006, resulting in the reclassification of some of these 'non-balance-sheet resources'.
Russia's RAR recoverable at less than US$ 40/kgU show a reduction of 10 000 tonnes, owing mainly to mining depletion in 2006 and 2007; other RAR, recoverable at US$ 40-80/kgU, have increased by over 50 000 tonnes, or 68%. Total IR of uranium in the Federation have grown nine-fold from 40 700 to 373 300 tU. Undiscovered Resources, both Prognosticated and Speculative, have also been substantially increased.
Russian output recorded a 7% rise in 2007, reaching 3 413 tU compared with 3 190 in the previous year.
As South African uranium production is a by-product of gold-mining, the substantial increase in exploration activity for gold that occurred during 2006, accompanied by the reopening of two gold mines, has been reflected in higher assessments of uranium resources. First Uranium reported in February 2009 that uranium recovery from the new plant at its Ezulwini gold mine is on schedule to commence during the last quarter of 2009.
Compared with the levels quoted in the 2005 Red Book, the main data source for the uranium chapter in the 2007 Survey, RAR recoverable at less than US$ 40/kgU have risen by more than 26 000 tU, to nearly 115 000 tonnes. Likewise, IR in the same cost-band have been raised by over 65 000 tonnes to almost 120 000 tU.
Uranium output in 2007 was virtually unchanged from that in the previous year, at 539 tU.
According to the 2007 Red Book, Ukraine recorded the biggest national increase in RAR over the levels quoted in the previous edition. The principal shift was in the US$ 40-80/kgU category, where the assessment rose more than threefold to just over 99 000 tU, owing to the incorporation of the Novokonstantinovskoye and Central deposits, which had not previously been taken into account. Substantial increases were also recorded in Ukraine's IR, again mainly in the US$ 40-80/kgU band, and in PR at less than US$ 80/kgU.
Total production of uranium registered a moderate increase in 2007, with a 4.7% rise from 808 tU to 846 tU.