What companies are the largest uranium producers in the world? We run through the firms producing the most of this crucial material.
While it’s still a long way away from its 2015 highs, the U3O8 spot price has made some gains in 2018, clocking in at US$29.10 per pound in November.
Many experts agree that the long-term outlook for uranium is positive, which bodes well for uranium-producing companies. Demand for the commodity is projected to be 25 percent higher by 2025, the World Nuclear Association says, mainly due to Asia’s growing nuclear energy industry.
With that in mind, it’s worth taking a look at which companies produce the most uranium. The list below lays out the five largest publicly traded uranium producers of 2017, providing a brief overview of what they got up to last year and what news they have released so far in 2018.
1. Cameco (TSX:CCO,NYSE:CCJ)
2017 production: 23.8 million pounds uranium
Cameco is at the top of the list of largest uranium producers. It accounts for approximately 16 percent of global uranium production, and has mines in three countries. In the US it owns the Smith Ranch-Highland operation in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, as well as the Crow Butte operation in Nebraska. The company’s notable Canadian operations include Cigar Lake and McArthur River/Key Lake, where it holds partial ownership. Additionally, Cameco has a 60-percent stake in a mine in Kazakhstan.
In 2017, the world’s largest uranium producer put out slightly less uranium than it did the previous year. Commenting on the company’s performance, President and CEO Tim Gitzel said, “[w]hile the market has struggled to transition, we remain resolved in our efforts to strengthen the company in the long-term. We remain protected under our contract portfolio and have taken the necessary actions to improve our costs. While these decisions have been difficult, we are starting to see them reflected in our lower capital, operational, and administration spend, and our cash flow generation.”
The company’s efforts to keep costs down include suspending production at its McArthur River mine and Key Lake milling operations. Cameco announced the suspension at the end of 2017, and in July 2018 it said it plans to keep the operations offline “indefinitely.” It’s hoped the move will stoke uranium prices. In its Q3 report this year, Cameco cited the financial impact of the closure, including severance payments to employees due to layoffs.
2. Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO,ASX:RIO,LSE:RIO)
2017 production: 6.7 million pounds uranium
Rio Tinto was the second-largest uranium producer in 2017, putting out more uranium than it did in 2016. With output of 6.7 million pounds the company met its production guidance for the year, which was between 6.5 and 7.5 million pounds of uranium.
The company’s uranium output comes partially through the 68.4-percent stake it holds in Energy Resources of Australia (ASX:ERA), which holds the Ranger mine, Australia’s longest continually operating producer of uranium. Rio Tinto also has a stake in Rossing Uranium, which runs the Rossing mine in Namibia, one of the world’s largest and longest-running open-pit uranium mines.
However, in November 2018 the company announced plans to sell its stake in Rossing Uranium to private entity China National Uranium.
3. BHP (NYSE:BHP,ASX:BHP,LSE:BHP)
2017 production: 4.94 million pounds uranium oxide concentrate
Major miner BHP’s Olympic Dam mine in Australia is one of the largest orebodies in the world. In addition to uranium, it also holds copper, gold and silver. According to the company, Olympic Dam has a fully integrated processing facility. In February 2018, BHP announced a large investment of AU$350 million in Olympic Dam, as well as the creation of 120 new jobs on site.
4. Paladin Energy (TSX:PDN)
2017 production: 4.149 million pounds uranium
Paladin Energy’s flagship operation is the Langer Heinrich mine in Namibia, though it also holds the Kayelekera mine in Malawi. Kayelekera is on care and maintenance, and Paladin announced in May 2018 that it would begin the process of taking Langer Heinrich offline as well. At the time, the company said Langer Heinrich would be able to return to production quickly once uranium prices improve.
The company re-listed on the ASX earlier in 2018 after an eight-month suspension. Paladin entered administration in July 2017 after failing to pay a major creditor, and the relisting came after a restructuring.
In August 2018, the firm made a takeover bid for Summit Resources (ASX:SMM), a uranium exploration company in which it already held an 82.08-percent stake. Fast forward a few months and in October it was announced that the offer had closed, with the acquisition process proceeding from there.
5. Energy Resources of Australia
2017 production: 1.598 million pounds uranium
As mentioned, Energy Resources of Australia owns the Australia-based Ranger mine. While mining stopped at Ranger in 2012, the company is currently still producing material from stockpiled ore. In 2017, Ranger produced a total of 5.1 million pounds of uranium; with Rio Tinto’s 3.5-million-pound share of production removed, Energy Resources’ share came in at about 1.6 million pounds.
According to the company’s latest annual report, Energy Resources is continuing rehabilitation of the project site and is working towards finalizing closure and revegetating the land. Ranger’s ore reserves currently stand at 5,783 tonnes, so the company may still be one of the largest uranium producers for a few years to come.
Other uranium-producing companies
Wondering which other companies produced uranium last year? Aside from the largest uranium producers, there are of course companies that produced smaller amounts. These smaller players include Energy Fuels (TSX:EFR,NYSEAMERICAN:UUUU), which put out 1.57 million pounds of U3O8, and Ur-Energy (TSX:URE,NYSEAMERICAN:URG), whose 2017 U3O8 output came in at 265,391 pounds.
Kazatomprom and Uranium One are also amongst the largest uranium producers, but are not included on this list because they are privately owned. Orano, formerly known as AREVA, was a publicly traded company until last year, when it was “split in two and recapitalized … after years of losses wiped out its equity.” It is also a significant uranium producer.
Which of the largest uranium producers do you think will wind up on top in 2018?
Is there a uranium-producing company you think should be included on this list? Let us know in the comments. And don’t forget to follow us @INN_Resource for real-time news updates!
Securities Disclosure: I, Amanda Kay, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.
Editorial Disclosure: Energy Fuels is a client of the Investing News Network. This article is not paid-for content.