Uranium: The World’s Energy Mineral

Group GSI.IR
Location International Geological Congress,oslo 2008
Author McIntyre, James
Holding Date 08 October 2008

Uranium averages about 2.8 parts per million in the earth’s crust, making it one of the more common elements. Traces of it occur almost everywhere. It is more common than tin, about 40 times more common than silver and 500 times more common than gold. Vast amounts of uranium also occur in the world’s oceans, but in much lower concentrations. In the last fifty years uranium has become one of the world’s most important energy minerals. It is used almost entirely for making electricity, though a small proportion is used for the important task of producing medical isotopes. Still, the uranium industry remains a mystery to many in the general public and often even to industry analysts. There are many uranium mines operating around the world, in some twenty countries, though more than two thirds of world production comes from just ten mines. Generally speaking, uranium mining is no different from other kinds of mining. But because of the high variability in uranium ore grades and geological settings in which these deposits occur, innovative and advanced technologies are necessary to extract the mineral safely and economically. This presentation will provide an overview of the uranium mining industry, its major players, and describe how uranium fits into the nuclear fuel cycle. The presenter will also discuss the current state of the world’s nuclear industry and what developments are occurring. He will explore how nuclear energy compares to other forms of electrical power generation and its relative importance as the world moves toward a more carbon-constrained energy profile. The presenter will take you into the world of ultra high-grade uranium mining at Cameco Corporation, the world’s largest uranium supplier. He will provide an overview of Cameco’s uranium operations, with particular focus on the technologies required to mine the company’s extraordinarily rich deposits, safely and with high regard for environmental protection. Finally, the presenter will take you into the world of low-grade uranium mining and discuss how innovative in-situ recovery technologies are being deployed by Cameco to recover uranium from very low-grade deposits in the US and Kazakhstan.