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Uranium What is Uranium Uranium Geology Uranium Deposits Uranium Resources Uranium Mining Uranium Logs

Uranium Resources, Reserves, and Economics

Like most mineral commodities, U.S. uranium reserves are highly dependent on market price. Uranium supply shortages or even the perception of a shortage can drive prices higher, leading to more exploration and ultimately increased production. Wyoming has more than 20 potential development projects under regulatory review, putting it in a good position to increase production if worldwide demand for uranium increases. If the price of yellowcake were $50 per pound, Wyoming hosts nearly 220 million pounds of economically viable, recoverable U3O8 (U.S. Energy Information Administration).

How much Uranium does Wyoming have?

In order to determine how much uranium exists in Wyoming, it is important to understand what are deposits, resources, reserves, and ore.

  • Deposits— accumulations of any type of earth material (rocks, sediments, minerals, etc.) created by natural depositional processes such as water, wind, ice, volcanism, or chemical precipitation.
  • Resource—the material in a deposit that may eventually become economically recoverable or minable. Since much of the earth’s crust contains uranium, there are many potential resources.
  • Ore—the material containing the mineral or minerals of economic value such as uranium, gold, copper, etc. Ore deposits or orebodies are continuous, well-defined accumulations of material containing enough ore to make extraction economically feasible; they are the minable portions of the resource.
  • Reserves—part of a deposit or resource that is proven to be economically recoverable at a profit to a mining company and using existing technology under current economic conditions.

Mining Methods and Economics

States with mineable uranium resources (tan) and currently producing states (brown).

The economic viability of uranium mining is often largely dependent on the method of recovery. Uranium production worldwide. Conventional methods involve excavating, processing, and extracting uranium into a fluid from which yellowcake can be concentrated. In-situ recovery methods are relatively inexpensive compared to conventional methods because in-situ recovery avoids costly excavation as well as milling, heap leaching, and extensive reclamation. In this case, for a low-grade ore, it is more economically beneficial to mine using less expensive in-situ methods. Typically, an ore deposit that is not minable by in-situ recovery will need to be significantly higher grade in order to be economic and to be classified as a reserve.

Many countries contain mineable uranium resources (click on map at right for uranium production worldwide). Australia holds the world’s largest resources with more than 1.66 million metric tons of uranium(one metric ton equals 2,205 pounds). The United States ranks 14th in resources and ninth in production in the world (click on map at left for uranium production in U.S. states). Kazakhstan leads the world in production, supplying 39 percent of the global output in 2016 (World Nuclear Association, 2017).

The Future of Uranium Mining

The future of uranium appears to be strong due to increasing international demand and current domestic energy needs. Uranium will continue to play a key role in meeting the growing demand for electric power from burgeoning economies as well as from smaller nations trying to modernize and elevate their standard of living. In the effort to meet society's electricity demands, nuclear energy has gained momentum, particularly because of its reliability, efficiency, and absence of CO2 emissions.

Advanced reactor and fuel technology have made nuclear power plants far more efficient than plants that burn fossil fuels. The uncertainty of the price of petroleum energy sources has also led countries to choose nuclear power over fossil fuels. Given the abundant supply of uranium that exists around the world and its advantages over fossil fuels, the use of uranium may increase and keep the industry strong well into the future.

Robert Gregory (307) 766-2286 Ext. 237