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The world's top 10 largest uranium mines in 2021 - report

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(Kitco News) - As Kitco reported previously, the world’s total uranium production amounted to 48,303 tonnes in 2021, which is a slight 1% increase over 2020 (47,731 tonnes).

Based on estimates from the World Nuclear Association and data reported by companies, Kitco ranked the world’s top ten largest uranium mines by reported / estimated production in 2021.

1. Cigar Lake, Canada. 4,693 tU.

Cigar Lake is the world’s largest and highest-grade uranium mine, with grades that are 100 times the world average. Cameco is a 50% owner and the mine operator. Cigar Lake uranium is milled at Orano’s (previously AREVA) McClean Lake mill.

As a result of challenging geological conditions, Cameco was unable to utilize traditional mining methods that require access above the ore, necessitating the development of a non-entry mining method specifically adapted for this deposit: the Jet Boring System and ore zone Bulk ground freezing. Uranium production at Cigar Lake increased to 4,693 tU in 2021 as Cameco resumed production at the mine in July 2021.

2. Inkai-1, Kazakhstan. 3,449 tU.

Inkai-1 is a very significant uranium project, located in Kazakhstan. The mine’s operator is JV Inkai limited liability partnership, which is jointly owned by Cameco (40%) and Kazatomprom (60%).

3. Husab, Namibia. 3,309 tU.

The main part of the Husab project is the Rossing South orebody, about 5 kilometres south of the Rossing mine and 45 km northeast of Walvis Bay port, Namibia. Swakop Uranium started development of the mine in February 2013. Mine construction commenced in 2014. Production started at the end of 2016. Most of the product is being supplied to China and up to 20% being marketed internationally by CGN Global Uranium.

4. Katco, Kazakhstan. 2,840 tU.

Owned and operated by the Katco joint venture, the Tortkuduk & Moinkum mines are located in southern Kazakhstan. The joint venture consists of Orano with 51% stake and the Kazakhstan-based company Kazatomprom with 49%.

5. Karatau, Kazakhstan. 2,561 tU.

Karatau is an operating in-situ recovery uranium mine comprising the No. 2 section of the Budenovskoye uranium deposit, located in the Chu-Sarysu basin of the Suzak region, South Kazakhstan province. Employing approximately 620 people, Karatau is owned indirectly as to 50 % by Uranium One, a subsidiary of Russia’s Rosatom, through the Karatau joint venture, a Kazakhstan limited liability partnership. The other 50 % interest is owned by Kazatomprom.

6. Rossing, Namibia. 2,444 tU.

Uranium was discovered in the Namib Desert in 1928, but it was not until intensive exploration in the late 1950s that much interest was shown in the area. After discovering numerous uranium occurrences, Rio Tinto secured the rights to the low-grade Rossing deposit in 1966. Ten years later, in 1976, Rossing Uranium, Namibia’s first commercial uranium mine, started production.

The mine is located 12 km from the town of Arandis, which lies 70 km inland from the coastal town of Swakopmund in Namibia’s Erongo Region. Walvis Bay, Namibia’s only deep-water harbour, is located 30 km south of Swakopmund.

On July 16, 2019, Rio Tinto annnounced it has completed the sale of its entire interest in the Rossing uranium mine in Namibia to China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) for an initial cash payment of $6.5 million plus a contingent payment of up to $100 million.

The world's largest uranium producing countries in 2021 - report

7. SMCC, Kazakhstan. 2,321 tU.

SMCC is a joint venture (Kazatomprom - 30%, Rosatom – 70%) that operates at the Akdala deposit and at block No. 3 of the Inkai deposit in the Suzak District of Turkistan Region.

The Akdala deposit was discovered in 1982, and commercial operation began in 2004. The Inkai deposit was discovered in 1976, and commercial operation of block No. 4 began in 2007.

8. Four Mile, Australia. 2,241 tU.

Four Mile in-situ recovery uranium mine is located approximately 115 km northeast of Leigh Creek, adjacent to the Beverley and Beverley North Uranium Mine, 550 km north of Adelaide, Australia, east of the northern Flinders Ranges.

At Four Mile, oxygen and a weak acid mining solution is pumped through the ore body to dissolve the uranium minerals. The dissolved uranium is then pumped to the surface, loaded onto resin at the Beverley North Pannikan plant then transferred to the Beverley Processing Plant for further processing via the iron exchange (IX) process, dried and packaged for export.

9. Somair (Arlit), Niger. 1,996 tU.

The Arlit uranium mine is a large mine located near Arlit, in the northern part of Niger in Agadez Region. Arlit represents one of the largest uranium reserves in Niger. Somaïr (Société des mines de l’Aïr), operator of Arlit mine, was established in 1968. Orano, the operator, holds 63.4% of the shares; the remaining 36.6% is held by SOPAMIN (Société du Patrimoine des Mines du Niger). Given the current characteristics of the processed ore, the production capacity is in the region of 2,000 tU per year (2021 production: 1,996 tU).

10. Olympic Dam, Australia. 1,922 tU.

Located near the town of Roxby Downs 560km north of Adelaide in Australia, the Olympic Dam mine is one of the world’s most significant deposits of copper, gold, silver and uranium that is wholly owned and operated by BHP Billiton.

Olympic Dam is made up of underground and surface operations and operates a fully integrated processing facility from ore to metal. The underground mine is made up of more than 450 kilometres of underground roads and tunnels.

The mine has been in production since 1988. The deposit occurs in the basement rocks of the Stuart Shelf geological province in the north of South Australia. The mine produced 1,922 tU in 2021 calendar year, a 37% decline over 2020 year, which is a result of the major smelter maintenance campaign in the period.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect those of Kitco Metals Inc. The author has made every effort to ensure accuracy of information provided; however, neither Kitco Metals Inc. nor the author can guarantee such accuracy. This article is strictly for informational purposes only. It is not a solicitation to make any exchange in commodities, securities or other financial instruments. Kitco Metals Inc. and the author of this article do not accept culpability for losses and/ or damages arising from the use of this publication.