Conventional Uranium Supply and Demand

An IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) report on Uranium until 2050 has the above chart.

Market Based Demand Cases (Tons per year needed
Low demand case 1 917 990
Middle demand case 4 158 280
High demand case 6 406 190

The conclusions of a World Nuclear Association report,The Global Nuclear Fuel Market Supply and Demand 2009-2030 are the nuclear energy’s fuel supply infrastructure should be able to meet world demand in the short term, but expansion will be needed across the entire fuel cycle beyond 2020.

Three scenarios presented for world nuclear capacity up to 2030, only the lower scenario sees nuclear generation failing to increase above its 2008 level of 371 GWe. The reference scenario sees an overall 2.2% growth rate reaching 476 GWe by 2020 and 600 GWe by 2030, while the upper scenario sees 558 GWe by 2020 and 818 GWe by 2030.

The report uses information gathered via questionnaires from WNA members representing all aspects of the fuel cycle across the globe. A computer model is then used to forecast nuclear fuel supply and demand to 2030.

Uranium Resource Categories

Category Definitions

Reasonably assured resources (RAR): Uranium that occurs in known mineral deposits of such size, grade, and configuration that it could be recovered within the given production cost ranges, with currently proven mining and processing technology. Estimates of tonnage and grade are based on specific sample data and measurements of the deposits and on knowledge of deposit characteristics. Note: RAR corresponds to DOE’s uranium reserves category.

Estimated additional resources (EAR): Uranium in addition to RAR that is expected to occur, mostly on the basis of geological evidence, in extensions of well-explored deposits, in little-explored deposits, and in undiscovered deposits believed to exist along well-defined geological trends with known deposits. This uranium can subsequently be recovered within the given cost ranges. Estimates of tonnage and grade are based on available sampling data and on knowledge of the deposit characteristics, as determined in the best-known parts of the deposit or in similar deposits. Note: EAR corresponds to DOE’s probable potential resources category.

Speculative resources (SR): Uranium in addition to EAR that is thought to exist, mostly on the basis of indirect evidence and geological extrapolations, in deposits discoverable with existing exploration techniques. The location of deposits in this category can generally be specified only as being somewhere within given regions or geological trends. The estimates in this category are less reliable than estimates of RAR and EAR. Note: SR corresponds to the combination of DOE’s possible potential resources and speculative potential resources categories.

*Identified Resources (formerly Known Conventional Resources)
– Reasonable Assured Resources (RAR)
– Inferred Resources (formerly Estimated Additional Resources I (EAR-I))

*Undiscovered Resources
– Prognosticated Resources (formerly Estimated Additional Resources II (EAR-II))
– Speculative Resources (SR)

Niger Could Move Beyond Current Levels of Top Uranium Producing Nations

Niger to triple uranium production in the next few years Niger communication minister and government spokesman Mohamed Ben Omar has said his country plans to raise its annual uranium production from 3,500 to 10,500 tonnes a year in the next few years.

21 page presentation (from 2007) on Niger Uranium Limited.

100% of Niger’s Uranium Production kin 2006 came from Areva’s Somair and Cominack Mines near Arlit. A mere $10 million exploration program spread over 2 years just completed in 2009. The growth to 10,000 tons/year is coming from the meager spending on exploration.

At the beginning of 2009, Niger and the French state mining company agreed a deal to build near Arlit the Imouraren mine. Areva would hold a 66% stake to the Nigerien mining office’s 33%. At a projected output of five thousand tonnes of ore a year, it would be largest uranium mine in the world by 2012, as the SOMAIR and COMINAK mines are phased out. The deal would make Niger the second largest uranium producer in
the world, and included plans to construct a civil nuclear power station for Niger.

Niger has a substantial amount of political unrest but this unrest is not hindering exploitation or shipment of uranium.

Despite the violence in the Air Massif, Areva NC and the Nigerien government were by later 2008 unhindered in their exploitation of the Arlit uranium mines and in the transport of its product by highway to ports in Benin.

The Imouraren mine will le launched with an initial investment of more than 1.2 billion euros (1.6 billion dollars) and create almost 1,400 jobs. Once up to full production capacity, it should be producing 5,000 tonnes of uranium a year for 35 years.

Despite the unrest France, China, India and others are in Niger and cutting deals and getting Uranium. France seems to know how to get what they want out of Africa. It is like they have many decades of experience and the willingness to do whatever it takes to supply the nuclear reactors that provide 80% of France’s electricity.

Niger to award 100 exploration permits to ramp up uranium industry . Niger Energy and Mines Minister Mamadou Abdulahi said that the country will award 100 mining exploration permits over the next two years. State-controlled French utility Areva has enjoyed a monopoly on production of uranium in Niger for some 40 years. In recent years, the
government has issued a slew of new exploration licences in an effort to diversify the uranium sector. (Resource Investor Jan 10, 2008)

Kazakhstan Situation

Kazakhstan is a dictatorship. It appears to be a stable dictatorship. Kazatomprom, a state-owned holding company produces the uranium.

Former Kazatomprom head Mukhtar Dzhakishev and other company officials illegally shifted ownership of uranium mines worth tens of billions of dollars through a network of offshore companies, the KNB security
service said.

Interpretation: An underboss over-reached and got put down by the Godfather and the Don’s security forces. Or the whatever the real story is… the top
guy decide to put down one of his underlings. The uranium is real and the reserves look real too. The Godfather in the movie had an olive oil business that was “real”.

Just like the developed countries deal with bastards who control oil, they will deal with bastards who control uranium. The bastards with oil and uranium still sell it. It is not a question of if they will sell, it is a question of price.

Wikipedia has some info on the Kazakhstan dictatorship. The years following independence have been marked by significant reforms to the Soviet-style economy and political monopoly on power. Under Nursultan Nazarbayev, who initially came to power in 1989 as the head of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan and was eventually elected President in 1991, Kazakhstan has made significant progress toward
developing a market economy. The country has enjoyed significant economic growth since 2000, partly due to its large oil, gas, and mineral reserves. Democracy, however, has not gained much ground since 1991. “In June 2007, Kazakhstan’s parliament passed a law granting President Nursultan Nazarbayev lifetime powers and privileges, including access to future presidents, immunity from criminal prosecution, and influence over domestic and foreign policy. Critics say he has become a de facto “president for life.”

Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee (KNB) was established on June 13, 1992. It includes the Service of Internal Security, Military Counterintelligence, Border Guard, several Commando units, and Foreign Intelligence (Barlau). The latter is considered by many as the most important part of KNB. Its director is Major General Omirtai Bitimov.

Energy is the leading economic sector. Production of crude oil and natural gas condensate in Kazakhstan amounted to 51.2 million tons in 2003, which was 8.6% more than in 2002.

Canada Uranium Situation

The delays in bringing the Canadian mines into production are not insurmountable. Especially if supply issues were idling hundreds of billions of dollars in nuclear plants. $2-3 billion more to overcome the flooding would be made available. Just like tens of billions go to solve oil sand recovery. Higher uranium prices also would also justify the investment needed to fix the problems. Canada also continues to find 4000-7000 ppm deposits.

World Nuclear Association report on Canada’s Uranium

Canada’s production is expected to increase significantly after 2011 as several new mines, now planned or under construction, go into operation.

Uranium production in Canada is likely to increase significantly as several new mines, now planned or under construction, go into operation sometime after 2011. The two largest projects are Cameco’s Cigar Lake mine and Areva’s Midwest mine, both in northern Saskatchewan. The mill at McClean Lake has been modified to process ore from both mines. The Rabbit Lake mill will also be modified to take ore from Cigar Lake. Total production is expected to be 8,200 t/y U3O8 from Cigar Lake and 2,600 t/y from Midwest.

The proven and probable ore reserves at Cigar Lake are extremely large and very high grade. A 450-metre-deep underground mine is being developed in very poor ground conditions. Hence it will use ground freezing and high pressure water jets to excavate the ore. High-grade ore slurry from remote mining will be trucked for toll treatment at Areva’s expanded McClean Lake mill, 70 km northeast, for the first two years. The average feed grade will be 20.7% U3O8. Then, as production approaches full capacity, all of the leaching will be done at McClean Lake but about half of the uranium solution will go on to Cameco’s Rabbit Lake mill 70 km east for final production of uranium oxide concentrate. From both mills total production is expected to be 8,200 t/y U3O8 (7,000 tU/y) ramping up to this over three years from production start in 2011. Known resources are 160,000 tonnes U3O8 at about 19% average grade, and with other resources the mine is expected to have a life of at least 30 years.

Construction on the project began in 2005 with production originally scheduled to start in 2011. However, underground floods in 2006 and 2008 set the start date back until after 2011 and increased the overall cost of the project from C$660 to more than C$1billion. There will be extra requirements for pumping capacity and ground refrigeration. Some 1.3 million cubic metres of waste rock from Cigar Lake is being emplaced under water in the Sue C pit at McClean Lake, to prevent acid generation from it. Tailings will remain at Mclean Lake and Rabbit Lake.

A Cigar Lake II deposit nearby is being investigated.

In addition to mining operations planned for the near future, active exploration involving more than 40 companies continues in many parts of Canada. While exploration has concentrated on northern Saskatchewan, new prospects extend to Labrador and Nova Scotia in the Atlantic provinces, Nunavut Territory in the far north, Quebec province and Ontario’s Elliott Lake area. Resource figures quoted are generally NI 43-101 compliant.

In uranium-rich northern Saskatchewan, exploration projects are now well-advanced at three locations. The Millennium deposit (42% owned by Cameco, 30% by JCU and 28% Areva Resources) has indicated resources of 21,000 tonnes of 4.5% grade U3O8 and 4,400 tonnes of 2.1% grade inferred. Ore would be milled at Key Lake. A feasibility study on the project is under way. The Tamarack deposit associated with Dawn Lake is also a focus of interest.

The Shea Creek project (51% owned by Areva, 49% UEX Corp.) in the western Athabasca Basin has reported very high grade ore and a 900 metre shaft is being sunk to provide better access. UEX (21.3% owned by Cameco) has invested about C$30 million in exploration. UEX is also exploring the Horseshoe and Raven deposits at Hidden Bay in the eastern Athabasca basin (close to Rabbit Lake and McClean Lake). The Horseshoe deposit has indicated resources of 11,100 tonnes of U3O8 at a grade of 0.237%, and Raven has indicated resources of 7,060 tonnes at 0.02% cut-off.

Denison is actively exploring the Wheeler River deposit half way between Key Lake and McArthur River. It is a long strike from the latter and geologically very similar, with some high-grade uranium mineralisation.

The main Labrador prospect centres on the Michelin deposit, which is being drilled in a C$21million program by Aurora Energy Resources (46.8% Fronteer Development). Michelin and the adjacent Jacques Lake deposit have identified resources of 46,000 tonnes of U3O8. Michelin was originally scheduled for development starting in 2010, but a provincial government moratorium until 2011 will delay the project. In Nova Scotia, exploration has been proposed at Millet Brook, but it awaits a review of a 1985 moratorium on uranium mining in the province.

Far north in the Nunavut Territory, a joint venture headed by Areva is conducting a feasibility study on the Kiggavik uranium deposit in the Thelon Basin, with an estimated 67,000 tonnes U3O8 at 0.24% grade. The indigenous Inuit organization, Nunavut Tunngavic, reversed its previous ban on uranium exploration and mining in 2006, but the project has faced opposition from other groups. The project involves the development of three open pit mines at Kiggavik and both an open pit mine and an underground mine at Sissons. Areva and its partners, JCU (Canada) Exploration and Daewoo, hope for a start-up of the mine and mill complex in 2015.e

Also in Nunavut, at Amer Lake, Uranium North Resources has reported resources of 8,770 t U3O8.

In Quebec, exploration is underway at several locations with a total of more than 40,000 tonnes of indicated or inferred deposits. Strateco Resources has reported indicated resources of 1,700 t U3O8 grading 0.68% and inferred resources of 6,000 tonnes grading 0.44% at its Matoush deposit in the Otish Basin of central Quebec. The company completed a scoping study in 2008 and will begin underground development in mid-2009, with a view to mine production in 2012. Azimut Exploration has committed C$42 million to uranium exploration, mainly for the Katavic project in Quebec’s northern Nunavik region and other prospects in the Ungava Bay region further north. Uracan Resources reports 18,400 tonnes of U3O8 of inferred resources at its North Shore prospect in eastern Quebec.

The Elliot Lake area of Ontario, which was the centre of Canada’s early uranium mining, is again attracting exploration. In September 2008, Pele Mountain Resources commenced the permitting process for its Eco Ridge underground uranium mine and processing facility in the region. Eco Ridge contains indicated resources of 5,700 tonnes U3O8 and inferred resources of 37,300 tonnes U3O8.

In British Columbia, the Blizzard prospect south of Kelowna, which was first explored in the 1980s, has been revived by Boss Power. The company has challenged a provincial government moratorium on exploration and mining imposed in April 2008, and the British Columbia government has indicated the Blizzard project may be able to go forward.

Uranium exploration appears to be on the upswing throughout Canada. Cameco spent C$57 million on exploration in 2008 (plus a further $32 million in three strategic partnerships with junior explorers) and plans C$50-55 million for 2009, mainly in Saskatchewan, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. In late 2007, Cameco announced an agreement with the Russian company Uranium Holding ARMZ (JSC Atomredmetzoloto)
to create a joint venture to explore and mine uranium in northwest Russia, Saskatchewan and Nanavut.