Australian uranium industry plays a role in global production growth

Australia’s Four Mile uranium mine in South Australia is playing a part in a global lift in production of the mineral.

Global uranium production is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 4.3 per cent, to reach 76,493 tonnes in 2020, research and consulting firm GlobalData revealed.

The company’s latest report states that growth in production is needed to meet upcoming demand from new reactors. It outlined that output at Four Mile increased from 750t in 2014 to 990t in 2015.

There are 22 new reactors scheduled for completion in 2017, with a total capacity of 22,444 megawatts (MW), according to GlobalData.

This includes eight reactors in China with a combined capacity of 8510 MW, two reactors in South Korea with a combined capacity of 2680 MW, two reactors in Russia with a combined capacity of 2199 MW, and four reactors in Japan with a combined capacity of 3598 MW.

Global uranium consumption is forecast to increase by five per cent, to reach 88,500t of triuranium octoxide (U₃O₈) in 2017.

The major expansions to nuclear capacity are projected to occur in China, India, Russia and South Korea over the next two years to 2018. The United States is forecast to remain the largest producer of nuclear power in the short term, with the recent completion of the 1200 MW Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor in Tennessee.

Cliff Smee, GlobalData’s head of research and analysis for mining, said: “Commercial operations at the Cigar Lake project in Canada commenced in 2014, with an annual uranium metal capacity of 6900t.

“The project produced 4340t of uranium in 2015, compared with 130t in 2014. Meanwhile, production at the Four Mile project in Australia rose from 750t in 2014 to 990t in 2015.

“By contrast, production from the US declined by 32 per cent in 2015, while in Namibia it decreased by 20 per cent. This was due to respective declines of 33 per cent each at the Smith Ranch-Highland and Crow Butte mines in the US, and falls of 20 per cent and 13.6 per cent at the Rossing and Langer Heinrich mines in Namibia.”