About Uranium

Content

Key Descriptors

  • Canada is the world's second largest producer of uranium, with 15% of global production in 2012.
  • Canada has the world's largest deposits of high-grade uranium with grades of up to 20% uranium, which is 100 times greater than the world average.
  • In 2013, Canada produced 9,331.5 tonnes of uranium, all from mines in northern Saskatchewan.
  • Nearly 85% of Canada’s uranium production is exported. The remainder is used to fuel CANDU reactors in Canada.
  • With its resource base and current output, Canada is well positioned to maintain its importance in uranium production in the future.

Industry Structure

The Canadian uranium industry is composed of firms that mine and mill raw uranium ore, refine and convert it into uranium dioxide and uranium hexafluoride, and produce fuel bundles for CANDU nuclear reactors.

The key producers in Canada are Cameco Corporation and AREVA Resources Canada Inc., which rank among the world’s leading uranium suppliers. A number of joint venture partners work with Cameco and AREVA in their mining and milling operations. In addition, hundreds of companies in Canada fill specific niches in the uranium industry, such as uranium exploration and engineering services. Canadian uranium is used to meet the nuclear-fuel requirements of electric utilities in Canada and around the world.

In Canada, mining is usually governed by provincial regulations. Uranium production, however, is under federal jurisdiction. Canada’s independent nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, regulates uranium mines and mills and all subsequent stages of the nuclear-fuel cycle, such as refining, conversion and fuel fabrication, to protect health, safety, security and the environment.

Resources

Most of Canada’s reserves are located in the Athabasca Basin of northern Saskatchewan, which hosts the world’s largest high-grade deposits. For example, at the McArthur River mine, the deposits average 18 per cent uranium content, making it the highest grade uranium mine in the world. The deposits mined in Canada have grades that are 10 to 100 times greater than the average grade of deposits mined elsewhere in the world.

Canada’s uranium resources are the fourth largest in the world, after those of Australia, Kazakhstan and Russia. As of January 1, 2012, Canada held 490,000 tonnes or 9 per cent of the world’s total uranium known resources recoverable at a uranium price of $100 per kilogram. At higher prices, additional uranium deposits would be deemed economically recoverable, thereby increasing Canada’s uranium resources.

At current production levels, the known uranium deposits will last more than 40 years. However, geological evidence points to the existence of significant undiscovered deposits.

Production

Canada is the world’s second largest producer of uranium, with about 15% of total world production. In 2013, Canada produced 9,331.5 tonnes of uranium valued at approximately $1.2 billion.

Canada’s uranium production grew from about 9,000 tonnes per year in the early 1990s to peak at 12,920 tonnes per year in 1998. Since then, annual uranium production has ranged between 8,214 and 12,552 tonnes.

Uranium is currently mined from the McArthur River, Cigar Lake and Rabbit Lake (Eagle Point) mines in northern Saskatchewan.

Processing

The world’s largest and Canada’s only uranium refinery is located at Blind River, Ontario, where uranium ore concentrates from Canada and abroad are refined to produce uranium trioxide. This product is shipped to a conversion facility in Port Hope, Ontario, which produces uranium hexafluoride and also produces the world’s only commercial supply of fuel-grade natural uranium dioxide. Uranium hexafluoride is exported to produce enriched uranium fuel for light-water reactors in the United States and elsewhere. Uranium dioxide is shipped to fuel fabrication facilities in Port Hope, Toronto and Peterborough, Ontario, to produce natural uranium fuel for CANDU reactors in Canada and abroad.

Exports and Domestic Consumption

Approximately 85 per cent of Canada’s uranium production is exported. In 2013, the value of Canadian-origin uranium exports amounted to approximately $1 billion. Exports are chiefly to the United States, Europe and Asia.

The remaining uranium is used to fuel domestic CANDU reactors, which currently supply about 15% of the electricity used in Canada. Of the 19 operating CANDU reactors in Canada, 18 are located in Ontario and one is in New Brunswick.