It is an element that has generated a lot of controversy regarding its use. Uranium, a silvery white element that is a fissile isotope, is most notoriously known for its use in nuclear power plants and in nuclear weapons.
The element’s use by the world’s militarise to fight enemies is widely disapproved. Uranium exposure is toxic, can cause cancer and if ingested in sufficient quantities, can even be fatal. An interesting side effect of uranium exposure is the increased birth of first-born female children by miners who are at uranium plants. Following are the top 11 largest uranium producing countries in the world in 2019.
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The world’s leading producer of uranium is Kazakhstan. Home to 12% of the globe’s reserves, Kazakhstan produces 23,800 tons of uranium, which is basically a whopping 39.3% of the world’s total production. Exploration of uranium in this country began in 943 and has since continued. The country has 17 uranium mines and 50 deposits which are spread across six provinces.
These reserves are capable of producing thousands of tons of uranium each year. The country usually produces 20,000 tons each year. In 2104, the production was 23,127 tons, with projections of an increase to over 30,000 tons. Last year 2016, Kazakhstan produced around 24,000; a leap from the previous year’s production. The nation’s Ministry of Geology is responsible for exploration of the element.
For the longest time, Canada reigned as the top uranium producer with a remarkable 22% of the world’s total output. This was until Kazakhstan unseated it in the year 2009. Canada discovered uranium in the 1930s, and this discovery was done by the Eldorado Gold Mining Company. The exploration of uranium began in 1942 due to military demands. In 2104, Canada produced a paltry 9,134 tons of uranium.
In 2016, the production made a substantial growth to 13,000 tons. Today some of the mines that have placed Canada among the highest ranking in uranium production are Cameco’s (TSX:CCO) Cigar Lake mine and McArthur River mine all found in Saskatchewan, McLean Lake and Rabbit Lake. More than 40 companies are involved in the exploration of uranium in Canada so as to increase the country’s production.
Australia began to explore her uranium resources in 1954. The element alongside other minerals, accounts for 20% of the country’s GDP. The uranium resources in this nation comprise approximately one-third of the world’s total. In 2014, the country produced 5,000 tons of uranium, which was the third-largest amount that year after Kazakhstan and Canada.
In 2015, the nation increased its production from 5,000 tons to 5,672 tons. Australia has the largest uranium resource among all countries in the world and the country has a potential to earn nearly $3 billion every year from exportation although this can’t be achieved due to policy restrictions.
Uranium was accidentally discovered by the French Bureau de Recherches Geologiques et Miniers (BRGM). The African country accounts for 6.8% of the world’s total output. It has one of the highest grade uranium ores in the world. In 2014, the country produced 4,000 tons while in 2015, the country produced 4,116 tons; which was a significant increase.
Niger has two uranium mines that work on production of uranium. Its first commercial mine started operating in 1971. Uranium is mined in the towns of Akonan and Arlit. The uranium concentrates are taken to Parakou in Benin by trucks, then transported by rail to Cotonou and then exported. Most of uranium in Niger is exported to France.
Russia is the fifth-largest producer of uranium in the world. Its yield in 2015 was 3,000 tons while its 2015 production was 3,055 tons which is small increase. The country has continued for years with exploitation of more uranium and there is credible evidence that there is more uranium. The energy ministry has reported that its looking to explore more on uranium energy and increased its exports in addition to nuclear power plants.
There have been sanctions that were placed on Russia by the West with respect to its enrichment of uranium and its flirtation with nuclear weapons. These sanctions heavily frustrated its uranium production process. If these sanctions are lifted, Russia will be able to continue full force with its production process.
Uranium production in the year 2014 was 3,255 tons. It dropped sharply to 3,000 tons in 2015. The nation is responsible for producing 4.9%. The nation has two significant uranium mines that have the capacity of having 10% of the global total output. Namibia’s first commercial uranium mine commenced its operations in 1976. Uranium was first discovered in the Namib Desert in 1928 but exploration only began in the late ‘50s. There are two main deposits: Trekkopje and Heinrich.
The government of Namibia stated in 2011 that its parastatal, Epangelo Mining Ltd would have exclusive control over mineral developments. The government fully supports expanded uranium mining and has repeatedly expressed interest in creating and harnessing nuclear power. Considering that Namibia has serious electricity issues, and that half its power is from South Africa, the idea of using nuclear energy is a sound one. However, there has not yet been any progress to make this goal a reality.
This nation was a huge source of uranium to Russia until its independence in 1991. In 2014, the production of uranium was at 2,400 tons. The following year production was at 2,385 tons which was a minor drop. Uzbekistan is seventh largest producer of uranium and most of the uranium deposits in Uzbekistan are located in the middle of the country. Its productions are set to expand, following its joint ventures with Japan and China. All the country’s uranium activities are handled by Navoi Mining & Metallurgy Combinat.
Production of uranium has stayed constant for a number of years now with 1500 tons produced in the years from 2012 to 2014. The production rose a little to 1,600 tons in the following year. China has plans to expand its uranium production, by producing one-third of its uranium domestically, obtain another third through foreign equity in joint ventures overseas, and to get another third on the open market.
It plans to become self-sufficient not only in nuclear power plant capacity but also in the fuel for those nuclear plants. China has two main enrichment plants that were built under agreement with Russia.
9. United States
The production of uranium in the U.S. dropped from 2,000 tons in 2014 to 1,200 tons in 2015. The 2015 production represents 7% of the expected market requirements of USA’s power reactors for that year. Most uranium ore comes from sandstone deposits which are of a lower grade than those of Canada and Australia. Production of uranium in this country is from one mill in Utah and six other operations in Texas, Wyoming and Nebraska.
The mining of uranium is currently done by a few companies, even though there are some explorers. Uranium in the United States is found in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Pennsylvania among others.
The nation is extremely dependent on nuclear energy and has 15 reactors. These reactors generate about half of Ukraine’s electricity. A huge share of energy supply stems from uranium and coal reserves. The Ukrainian government is anticipating the Wets’ help in terms of both technology and investment in its nuclear plants the country has around 1200 tons of uranium.
11. South Africa
With production capacity of 393 tons, South Africa is the eleventh largest uranium producer in the world. It accounts for about 0.6% of the global output. The nation has 2 nuclear generators which generate 5% of its electricity. Its first nuclear power reactor commenced its operations in 1984. The South African government is heavily committed to having a nuclear-powered future. It has plans to advance 1300 MWe even though there are severe financial constrictions.
Uranium has been used as a weapon by countries such as south Korea and others who are threatening the world stability with their nuclear bombs. It’s one of the valuable minerals a country can have but when it lands into the wrong regime it can be a weapon of mass destruction too.