Top 10 Countries with Highest Uranium Production
We live in a day and age where nuclear power is becoming a common need for daily life. In 2011, the Key World Energy Statistics found that 10% of the world's electricity was provided via nuclear power plants; but what, ultimately, fuels these plants to provide power? All across the globe, uranium mines gather the natural resource used as the basis of all nuclear power; and while many countries contribute to the mining of uranium, these 10 countries provide the highest amount per year, based on tonnes mined in 2013.
Kazakhstan may only be number two in the countries with the highest number of uranium reserves, but that didn’t stop them from producing over 22,000 tonnes of uranium in 2013. The substantial amount accounts for 38% of the world’s supply. Due to this, Kazakhstan has become an international interest in countries like Russia, Japan, China, India, and South Korea, where Kazakhstan has agreed, in most cases, to enter into energy agreements to act as a supplier of uranium.
Up until 2009, Canada was the world’s leading uranium producer, eventually beaten out by the vast supply produced by Kazakhstan. Most of the country’s 9,331 tonnes of uranium comes from the largest mine in the world, the McArthur River mine in northern Saskatchewan. Canada is responsible for exporting 8,111 tonnes of uranium, which accounts for 82% of what they mine, leaving only approximately 1,700 tonnes for domestic purposes.
Australia is home to the largest number of uranium reserves, making up 31% of the world’s share, though the 7,488 tonnes mined in 2013 is only a quarter of what Kazakhstan had produced in the same year. Currently, Australia exports 100% of its uranium as it has yet to implement nuclear power, though a need to reduce CO2 emissions may push the need for it. Australia’s export of uranium is mostly divided between the United States, parts of Europe, and Japan.
In 1971, the African country of Niger opened its first commercial uranium mine at the Arlette deposit. Currently, there are only three active mines which contributed to the 4,500 tonnes of uranium gathered in 2013. In 2008, a French company, Areva, began development on the deposit at Imouraren, located 80 miles south of the Arlit deposit. Regardless of several roadblocks, including a 2012 labor dispute, construction at the mine is still in the works with 1.1 billion dollars still needed to complete the project.
Namibia’s 4,323 tonnes of uranium mined in 2013 comes from two large uranium reserves, Rossing SJ and Rossing Z20. The Rossing mines are owned and operated by Rossing Uranium Limited, a company formed in 1970 to increase uranium production with Namibia. Between 2010 and 2012, the company started to suffer profit losses and was forced to perform major cuts in 2013 to allow for continued production. Though Namibia mines its own uranium for nuclear power, half of its 3 billion kWh per year used for electrical supply is provided by South African countries.
Though Russia’s output of 3,135 tonnes of uranium in 2013 seems small, the country is planning a large push for increased production. It is projected via plans announced in 2006 that Russia will increase its production through 2020 approximately 5 times its current rate, at an estimated 18,000 tonnes of uranium. A large portion of this potential production will come from new joint ventures with leading uranium producer, Kazakhstan. Currently, Russia is only mining from three of the seven known reserves within the country.
Up until 1991, Uzbekistan provided Russia with a substantial amount of uranium. Since then, Uzbekistan’s uranium production has been split amongst several countries and itself. In 2006, the country entered into an agreement with Japan that provided funding for uranium mining in exchange for a 50/50 split in interest of the mines and minerals resourced from them. A similar agreement was entered with China in 2009, of course focusing on a different selection of uranium mines within Uzbekistan. In 2013, it is estimated that the country produced 2,400 tonnes of uranium.
Within the United States, upwards of 10 different mining companies have an interest in the country’s production of Uranium, and while some are locally owned, several hail from areas like Toronto and Australia. The United States is home to some 200,000 uranium reserves, but despite the large number of uranium mining in the United States is fairly small in scale. In 2013, it was reported that the country only produced 1,792 tonnes of uranium, a number that’s 200 tonnes higher than 2012’s production values. This small amount is not enough to satisfy the United States’ nuclear power supply, so a vast portion of its uranium is by country’s like Canada and Kazakhstan. It is estimated that 83% of the United States’ uranium was supplied by foreign powers in 2012.
Sitting on over 170,000 uranium reserves, China comes in at number 9 with only 1500 tonnes mined in 2013. Ironically, despite the low production, China’s nuclear technologies research and development is top in the world. That does mean, though, that China’s supply of uranium comes from a third party, in this instance Russian uranium mines. Currently, China National Nuclear Corporation entered into an agreement with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited to partake in research of a means of recycling uranium used within newer nuclear energy systems, potentially cutting down on the amount of uranium used worldwide.
The Kayelekera uranium mine in northern Malawi, Africa produced a total of 1,134 tonnes of uranium in 2013. Though not the lowest producing country by any stretch, the mine accounts for only 1.9% of uranium mined across the globe. Malawi’s Kayelekera mine was discovered in 1980, but production didn’t start until the middle of 2009. By 2012, 1,103 tonnes of uranium was pulled annually, increasing slightly to 1,134 tonnes within the next year. During May of 2014, the mine was shut down due to low uranium prices, halving operational costs from 24 million dollars per year to approximately 12 million dollars for simple sporadic maintenance during the closure.