Rio Tinto aims to double uranium production

15 February 2008

In announcing record annual results, Rio Tinto said it plans to double its annual uranium production by 2015. The company had net earnings of some $7.3 billion in 2007, but it is not the only firm boosting uranium production.


Rössing (Image: Rio Tinto) 

Tom Albanese, CEO of the group, headquartered in London and Melbourne, said: "In addition to rising realised prices, we plan to capture additional value from accelerated brownfield production at both Rössing and at Ranger. Feasibility studies are underway with the aim of doubling our combined uranium production by 2015."


The company achieved record cash flow and record production in iron ore, bauxite, aluminium, refined gold and refined copper. Net earnings were down 2% on 2006 figures to $7.3 billion, partly due to another record - in capital expenditure.

Uranium boom

During 2007 Rio Tinto produced 4589 tonnes of uranium from its Ranger mine in north Australia and 2582 tonnes from Rössing in Namibia, making a total of 7171 tonnes of uranium. Rio Tinto is already the world's second largest uranium producer. Doubling output would take it well clear of rival Cameco's current production rate of 8250 tonnes of uranium per year, although Cameco has plans to increase capacity - notably through the Cigar Lake mine which could produce 7000 tonnes per year alone.


Another rival in the uranium world, KazAtomProm, is also planning extraordinary expansion. Over the 2001-2005 period, Kazakh uranium production rose from 2000 to 4357 tonnes per year, and further mine development is underway with a view to annual production of 15,000 tonnes by 2010.


Preliminary figures released today by the US Energy Information Administration showed a steady rise in US uranium output over the last few years, and a jump in uranium production of 14% compared to 2006 taking output levels back to what they had been in the late 1990s. A total of 1800 tonnes of uranium was produced from five mines and one mill which was treating secondary material.

At least two prospective new uranium mines in Australia are stalled due to political veto or traditional owner veto, but Ranger and Rössing extension projects based on exploration success and each costing under $500 million are scheduled for 2010, according to Rio Tinto presentation slides.