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Top 10 Uranium-producing Countries (Updated 2024)

Output from the top uranium-producing countries rose steadily for a decade, peaking at 63,207 metric tons (MT) in 2016. However, global uranium production has noticeably declined in the years since then.

Decreased numbers across the world are related to the persistently low spot prices the uranium market has experienced in the wake of the Fukushima disaster; COVID-19 and Russia’s war against Ukraine have also had an impact on output.

Now uranium prices have begun to rebound significantly, buoyed by increasingly positive sentiment about the role of nuclear power in the energy transition, and investment demand via new uranium-based funds.

Currently 10 percent of the world’s electricity is generated by nuclear energy, and that number is expected to grow. Looking forward, analysts are calling for a sustained bull market in uranium. In early 2024, prices surged to a 16 year high of more than US$100 per pound, and although they have slipped slightly since then, industry insiders remain optimistic.

Due to its significance in energy generation, it’s important to know where uranium is mined and which nations are the largest uranium-producing countries. Kazakhstan is the leader by a long shot, and has been since 2009. In 2022 — the last year for which data is available — it was followed by Canada and Namibia in second and third place, respectively.

For investors interested in following the uranium space, having familiarity with these uranium production hotspots is essential. Read on to get a closer look at 2022’s largest uranium-producing countries. All statistics are from the World Nuclear Association’s most recent report on uranium mine production.

1. Kazakhstan

Mine production: 21,227 MT

As mentioned, Kazakhstan had the highest uranium production in the world in 2022. In fact, the country’s total output of 21,227 MT accounted for an impressive 43 percent of global uranium supply.

When last recorded in 2021, Kazakhstan had 815,200 MT of known recoverable uranium resources, second only to Australia. Most of the uranium in the country is mined via an in-situ leaching process.

Kazataprom (LSE:KAP,OTC Pink:NATKY), the country’s national uranium miner, is the world’s largest producer, with projects and partnerships in various jurisdictions. News that the top uranium producer may miss its production targets for 2024 and 2025 was a large contributor to uranium prices breaking through the US$100 level this year.

2. Canada

Mine production: 7,351 MT

Canada’s uranium output has fallen dramatically since hitting a peak of 14,039 MT in 2016. After producing 6,938 MT of yellowcake in 2019, Canadian uranium production sank to 3,885 MT in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic led to operational shutdowns. However, uranium production in the country began to rebound in 2022.

Saskatchewan’s Cigar Lake and McArthur River are considered the world’s two top uranium mines. Both properties are operated by sector major Cameco (TSX:CCO,NYSE:CCJ). Cameco made the decision to shutter operations at the McArthur River mine in 2018, but returned to normal operations in November 2022.

In 2023, Cameco produced 17.6 million pounds of uranium, which was below its originally planned production of 20.3 million pounds for the year. The company has set its guidance at 22.4 million pounds for 2024.

Uranium exploration is also prevalent in Canada, with the majority occurring in the uranium-rich Athabasca Basin. That area of Saskatchewan is world renowned for its high-quality uranium deposits and friendly mining attitude. The province’s long history with the uranium industry has helped to assert it as an international leader in the sector.

3. Namibia

Mine production: 5,613 MT

Namibia’s uranium production has been steadily increasing after falling to 2,993 MT in 2015.

In fact, the African nation overtook longtime frontrunner Canada to become the third largest uranium-producing country in 2020, and went on to surpass Australia for the second top spot in 2021. Although Namibia slipped back below Canada in 2022, its output for the year was only down by 140 MT from 2021.

The country is home to two uranium mines that are capable of producing 10 percent of the world’s output. Paladin Energy (ASX:PDN,OTCQX:PALAF) owns the Langer Heinrich mine, while large miner Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO,ASX:RIO,LSE:RIO) sold its majority share of the Rössing mine to China National Uranium in 2019.

In 2017, Paladin took Langer Heinrich offline due to weak uranium prices; however, improved uranium prices over the past few years prompted the uranium miner to ramp up restart efforts. At the close of 2024’s first quarter, Langer Heinrich achieved commercial production once again.

4. Australia

Mine production: 4,087 MT

Australia’s uranium production decreased significantly in 2021 to 4,192 MT, down from 2020’s 6,203 MT; it fell further in 2022 to hit 4,087 MT. The island nation holds 28 percent of the world’s known recoverable uranium resources.

Uranium mining is a contentious and often political issue in Australia. While the country permits some uranium-mining activity, it is opposed to using nuclear energy — at least for now. ‘Australia uses no nuclear power, but with high reliance on coal any likely carbon constraints on electricity generation will make it a strong possibility,” according to the World Nuclear Association. “Australia has a significant infrastructure to support any future nuclear power program.”

Australia is home to three operating uranium mines, including the largest-known deposit of uranium in the world, BHP’s (NYSE:BHP,ASX:BHP,LSE:BHP) Olympic Dam. Although uranium is only produced as a by-product at Olympic Dam, its high output of the metal makes it the fourth largest uranium-producing mine in the world. In BHP’s 2023 fiscal year, uranium output from the Olympic Dam operation totaled 3.4 million MT of uranium oxide concentrate, an increase of 1.03 million MT from the previous year’s production.

5. Uzbekistan

Mine production: 3,300 MT

In 2020, with an estimated 3,500 MT of output, Uzbekistan became one of the top five uranium-producing countries. Domestic uranium production had been gradually increasing in the Central Asian nation since 2016. Previously seventh in terms of global uranium output, it is expanding production via Japanese and Chinese joint ventures. However, for 2022, the country’s uranium output was down by 200 MT to 3,300 MT.

Navoi Mining & Metallurgy Combinat is part of state holding company Kyzylkumredmetzoloto, and handles all the mining and processing of domestic uranium supply. The nation’s uranium largess continues to attract foreign investment; strategic partnerships with French uranium miner Orano and state-run China Nuclear Uranium were announced in November 2023 and March 2024, respectively.

6. Russia

Mine production: 2,508 MT

Russia was in sixth place in terms of uranium production in 2022. Output has been relatively steady in the country since 2011, usually coming in around the 2,800 to 3,000 MT range.

Experts had been expecting the country to increase its production in the coming years to meet its energy needs, as well as growing uranium demand around the world. But in 2021, uranium production in the country dropped by 211 MT from the previous year to 2,635 MT; it fell further by another 127 MT to reach 2,508 MT in 2022.

In terms of domestic production, Rosatom, a subsidiary of ARMZ Uranium Holding, owns the country’s Priargunsky mine and is working on developing the Vershinnoye deposit in Southern Siberia through a subsidiary. In 2023, Russia surpassed its uranium production target, producing 90 MT more than expected. Rosatom is developing new mines, including Mine No. 6, which is slated to begin uranium production in 2028.

Russian uranium has been an area of controversy in recent years, with the US initiating a Section 232 investigation around the security of uranium imports from the country in 2018. More recently, Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine has prompted countries around the world to look more closely at their nuclear supply chains.

7. Niger

Mine production: 2,020 MT

Niger’s uranium production has declined year-on-year over the past decade, with output totaling 2,020 MT in 2022. The African nation has two uranium mines in production, SOMAIR and COMINAK, which account for 5 percent of the world’s uranium production. Both projects are operated by subsidiaries of Orano, a private uranium miner.

Niger is also home to the flagship project of explorer GoviEx Uranium (TSXV:GXU,OTCQB:GVXXF). The company is presently developing its Madaouela asset, as well as projects in Zambia and Mali. Global Atomic (TSX:GLO,OTCQX:GLATF) is developing its Dasa project in the country, and expects to commission its processing plant by early 2026.

A recent military coup in the African nation has sparked uranium supply concerns, as Niger accounts for 15 percent of France’s uranium needs and one-fifth of EU imports. In January 2024, the Nigerian government, now under a military junta, announced it intends to overhaul the nation’s mining industry. It has temporarily halted the granting of new mining licenses and will be considering reforms to existing mining licenses in order to increase state profits.

8. China

Mine production: 1,700 MT

China’s uranium production rose from 885 MT in 2011 to 1,885 MT in 2018, and held steady at that level until falling to 1,600 MT in 2021. The country’s uranium output grew by 100 MT to hit 1,700 MT in 2022.

China General Nuclear Power, the country’s sole domestic uranium supplier, is looking to expand nuclear fuel supply deals with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and additional foreign uranium companies.

China’s goal is to supply one-third of its nuclear fuel cycle with uranium from domestic producers, obtain one-third through foreign equity in mines and joint ventures overseas and purchase one-third on the open uranium market. China is also a leader in nuclear energy; Mainland China has 55 nuclear reactors with 27 in construction.

9. India

Mine production: 600 MT

India produced 600 MT of uranium in 2022, on par with output in 2021.

India currently has 23 operating nuclear reactors with another seven under construction. “The Indian government is committed to growing its nuclear power capacity as part of its massive infrastructure development programme,” as per the World Nuclear Association. “The government has set ambitious targets to grow nuclear capacity.”

10. South Africa

Mine production: 200 MT

South Africa is another uranium-producing country that has seen its output decline over the past decade — the nation’s uranium output peaked at 573 MT in 2014. Nonetheless, South Africa surpassed Ukraine’s production (curbed by Russia’s invasion) in 2022 to become the 10th top uranium producer globally.

South Africa holds 5 percent of the world’s known uranium resources, taking the sixth spot on that list.

Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Pistilli, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

This post appeared first on investingnews.com
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