U.S. uranium drilling was down in 2014 but mine production was up

Domestic uranium drilling, and investment in U.S. uranium drilling, both declined during 2014, although uranium mines produced more in 2014 than they did in 2013.

Those are a couple of the highlights from the annual Domestic Uranium Production Report released April 30 by the Energy Information Agency (EIA).

Total uranium drilling was 1,752 holes covering 1.3 million feet, 67% fewer holes than in 2013 and the lowest since 2004. Expenditures for uranium drilling in the United States were $28 million in 2014, a decrease of 43% compared with 2013.

Nevertheless, U.S. uranium mines produced 4.9 million pounds U3O8 in 2014, 7% more than in 2013. Two underground mines produced uranium ore during 2014, one less than during 2013.

Uranium ore from underground mines is stockpiled and shipped to a mill, to be milled into uranium concentrate (a yellow or brown powder). Additionally, eight in-situ-leach (ISL) mining operations produced solutions containing uranium in 2014, one more than in 2013, that was processed into uranium concentrate at ISL plants. Overall, there were 10 mines that operated during part or all of 2014.

Total production of U.S. uranium concentrate1 in 2014 was 4.9 million pounds U3O8, 5% more than in 2013, from eight facilities: one mill in Utah (White Mesa Mill) and seven ISL plants (Alta Mesa Project, Crow Butte Operation, Hobson ISR Plant/La Palangana, Lost Creek Project, Nichols Ranch ISR Project, Smith Ranch-Highland Operation, and Willow Creek Project). The Nichols Ranch ISR Project started producing in 2014. The seven ISL plants are located in Nebraska, Texas and Wyoming.

Total uranium expenditures in 2014 — including drilling, production, land exploration and reclamation – were as low as they have be since 2006, according to one chart in the EIA report.


About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.