Uranium output rises in Kazakhstan and Australia during 2007

23 January 2008

Kazakhstan and Australia both reported double-digit increases in uranium production during 2007. Kazakh output increased over 25%, despite a shortage of sulfuric acid, whilst Australian output grew 13%. The countries are the world's second and third biggest major uranium suppliers, after Canada.


KazAtomProm announced that Kazakhstan's uranium production increased 25.7% in 2007, to 6637 tonnes (7827 tonnes U3O8), compared with output of 5281 tonnes (6228 tonnes U3O8) in 2006. The total production volume includes the share of KazAtomProm, joint ventures of KazAtomProm and the Stepnogorsk Mining Chemical Complex, which is managed by KazAtomProm. Production in 2007 was 1000 tonnes less than planned due to a shortage of sulfuric acid in Kazakhstan following a fire at a production plant and the delayed start-up of some new facilities. Sulfuric acid is the main chemical component during production of uranium using the in-situ leach (ISL) method.


Uranium production in 2008 is planned to be 9600 tonnes (11,320 tonnes U3O8). Kazakhstan plans to increase uranium output to over 15,000 tonnes (17,690 tonnes U3O8) by 2010, which would make the country the world's largest producer of uranium, ahead of Canada and Australia. Kazakhstan has set a uranium production target of 30,000 tonnes (23,380 tonnes U3O8) per year by 2018, the increase being due to a perceived shortfall being likely about 2014.


In Australia, production in 2007 from the country's three uranium mines totalled 8603 tonnes (10,145 tonnes U3O8). This was 13% higher than in 2006, but slightly below output in both 2004 and 2005.


Energy Resources Australia (ERA) reported that output at its Ranger mine increased 14% in 2007 to 4589 tonnes (5412 tonnes U3O8). This was despite mining operations at Ranger having to be temporarily suspended in early 2007 due to flooding from heavy rainfall. Uranium production at BHP Billiton's Olympic Dam operation in 2007 totalled 3379 tonnes (3985 tonnes U3O8), while output at Heathgate Resource's Beverley in-situ leach (ISL) mine totalled 634 tonnes (748 tonnes U3O8).