In 2015, world uranium production came to 60,514 tonnes, up from 2014’s number of 56,041 tonnes. While production was down in 2014 from 2013’s 59,331 tonnes, the increase from 2015 is promising.
Kazakhstan was far and away the year’s top uranium-producing country with 23,800 and it was followed by Canada with 13,325 tonnes and Australia with 5,672 tonnes.
With those numbers and locations in mind, the Investing News Network took a look at the world’s 10 top uranium mines of 2014. Here’s a brief overview of those mines, based on statistics and information from the World Nuclear Association.
1. McArthur River mine
2015 mine production: 7,354 tonnes
Located in Saskatchewan, Canada, the McArthur River mine is the world’s largest uranium mine, and its annual output dwarfs that of other projects. Production at the McArthur River mine dropped slightly from 7,356 in 2014 to 7,354 in 2015. In 2015, the mine accounted for 12 percent of uranium mined worldwide.
Major miner Cameco (TSX:CCO) holds a 69.8 percent stake in McArthur River and is its operator. It is entitled to 234.9 million pounds in proven and probable uranium reserves. AREVA Resources Canada, a subsidiary of AREVA (EPA:AREVA), owns the other 30.2 percent of McArthur River.
McArthur River became operational in 2000, and expansion into other prospective deposits near the mine could prolong its life. To date, McArthur River has yielded 291million pounds of uranium.
2. Cigar Lake
2015 mine production: 4,345 tonnes
Cigar Lake is the world’s highest-grade uranium mine, located in northern Saskatchewan. Commercial production at the nine began in May 2015, with a total of 11.3 million pounds produced by the end of the year with a ramp-up of 18 million pounds per year expected by the end of 2017. Cigar Lake accounted for 7 percent of worldwide production of uranium in 2015.
Cameco also holds a stake in the mine with 50 percent ownership. It is entitled to 110.9 million pounds in proven and probable uranium mineral reserves. The remaining 50 percent ownership is divided between AREVA (37 percent), Idemitsu Uranium Exploration Canada (8 percent) and TEPCO Resources (5 percent).
3. Tortkuduk and Myunkum mines
2015 mine production: 4,109 tonnes
Production dropped from 4,322 tonnes in 2014 to 4,109 tonnes in 2015 at the Tortkuduk and Myunkum mines. The two mines are located in Kazakhstan, and are operated through a joint venture between AREVA and state-owned nuclear energy company Kazatomprom. Areva owns a 51-percent stake in these mines, while Kazatomprom has 49-percent ownership. The company’s partnership is known as KATCO, and was formed in 1996.
Last year, the Tortkuduk and Myunkum mines produced 7 percent of the world’s uranium.
3. Olympic Dam mine
2015 mine production: 3,161 tonnes
BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) owns the Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine in Roxby Downs, Australia. The mine has been producing since 1988, and in 2015 its output accounted for 5 percent of the global uranium, producing 3,161 tonnes, a drop from 2014’s production of 3,351 tonnes.
BHP Billiton acquired the mine in 2005 and had planned to expand the operation, but a decline in commodities prices forced the company to cancel those plans, according to ABC News.
4. SOMAIR mines
2015 mine production: 2,509 tonnes
The SOMAIR mines are a collection of open-pit mining operations located in Niger, and are majority owned and operated by AREVA. SOMAIR is also the name of the partnership between AREVA and SOPAMIN, the state agency that manages mining in Niger. AREVA owns 63.6 percent of the mines, while SOPAMIN holds a 36.4-percent share.
The 2,509 tonnes of uranium mined at the SOMAIR mines last year equate to 4 percent of the world’s production. That being said, production increased from 2014’s 2,331 tonnes although global production dropped from 5 percent down to 4 percent. Production at the mines began in 1971, and stopped in 2013 pending a license renewal. Production resumed in 2014.
5. Inkai mine
2015 mine production: 2,234 tonnes
Rising sharply up the list is the Inkai mine, who produced 2,234 tonnes in 2015, up from 1,922 tonnes in 2014. Cameco owns a 60-percent interest in the Kazakhstani Inkai mine, and the remainder is held by Kazatomprom. Cameco’s share includes 43.1 million pounds of proven and probable reserves, and the mine generated 4 percent of last year’s uranium output.
6. Budenovskoye 2 mine
2015 mine production: 2,061 tonnes
Another Kazakhstani site, Budenovskoye 2 produced 2,061 tonnes last year, down slightly from 2014’s production of 2,084 tonnes. 2015’s production is the equivalent to 4 percent of the world’s uranium. The Budenovskoye 2 site contains the Karatau mine, which is owned by the Karatau joint venture — the joint venture is a Kazakh-registered limited liability partnership in which Uranium One holds a 50-percent stake.
7. South Inkai mine
2015 mine production: 2,055 tonnes
Production at the South Inkai mine began in 2009, and the project was responsible for 4 percent of the world’s uranium production in 2015. Production ramped up in 2015 to 2,055 tonnes produced from 2,002 tonnes in 2014. The Kazakhstani mine is operated by Uranium One.
8. Priargunsky mine
2015 mine production: 1,977 tonnes
This Russian mine is owned and operated by ARMZ Uranium Holding Company; it delivered 3 percent of the world’s total uranium output in 2014. ARMZ Uranium Holding Company is the mining arm of Rosatom State Atomic Energy, which manages Russia’s efforts in defense, nuclear safety and nuclear energy.
9. Langer Heinrich mine
2015 mine production: 1,937 tonnes
Located in Nambia, the Langer Heinrich mine is majority owned by Paladin Energy (TSX:PDN). In July 2014, CNNC Overseas Uranium Holding, a wholly owned subsidiary of China National Nuclear, bought a 25-percent stake in the mine. Langer Heinrich was responsible for 3 percent of the world’s uranium production last year.
10. Central Mynkuduk mine
2015 mine production: 1,847tonnes
The Central Mynkuduk mine started up in 2007 in Kazakhstan and yielded 3 percent of total uranium supply in 2015. It is operated by the Ken Dala.kz joint stock company, part of Kazatomprom.
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This is an update to an article originally published on July 12, 2015.