U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis
Nuclear & Uranium
Domestic Uranium Production Report - Annual
With Data for 2012 | Release Date: June 06, 2013 | Next Release Date: May 2014
Previous domestic uranium production reports
U.S. uranium exploration drilling was 5,112 holes covering 3.4 million feet in 2012. Development drilling was 5,970 holes and 3.7 million feet. Combined, total uranium drilling was 11,082 holes covering 7.2 million feet, 5 percent more holes than in 2011. Expenditures for uranium drilling in the United States were $67 million in 2012, an increase of 24 percent compared with 2011.
Mining, production, shipments, and sales
U.S. uranium mines produced 4.3 million pounds U3O8 in 2012, 5 percent more than in 2011. Six underground mines produced uranium ore during 2012, one more than during 2011. Uranium ore from underground mines is stockpiled and shipped to a mill, to be milled into uranium concentrate (a yellow or brown powder). Additionally, five in-situ-leach (ISL) mining operations produced solutions containing uranium in 2012 that was processed into uranium concentrate at ISL plants. Overall, there were 11 mines that operated during part or all of 2012.
Total production of U.S. uranium concentrate in 2012 was 4.1 million pounds U3O8, 4 percent more than in 2011, from six facilities: one mill in Utah (White Mesa Mill) and five ISL plants (Alta Mesa Project, Crow Butte Operation, Hobson ISR Plant/La Palangana, Smith Ranch-Highland Operation, and Willow Creek Project). Nebraska, Texas and Wyoming produced uranium concentrate at the five ISL plants in 2012.
Total shipments of uranium concentrate from U.S. mill and ISL plants were 3.9 million pounds U3O8 in 2012, 2 percent less than in 2011. U.S. producers sold 3.6 million pounds U3O8 of uranium concentrate in 2012 at a weighted-average price of $49.63 per pound U3O8.
Facility status (mills and in-situ-leach plants)
At the end of 2012, the White Mesa mill in Utah was operating with a capacity of 2,000 short tons of ore per day. Shootaring Canyon Uranium Mill in Utah and Sweetwater Uranium Project in Wyoming were on standby with a total capacity of 3,750 short tons of ore per day. There is one mill (Piñon Ridge Mill) planned for Colorado.
At the end of 2012, five U.S. uranium ISL plants were operating with a combined capacity of 10.8 million pounds U3O8 per year (Crow Butte Operation in Nebraska; Alta Mesa Project, Hobson ISR Plant/La Palangana in Texas; Smith Ranch-Highland Operation and Willow Creek Project in Wyoming). Kingsville Dome and Rosita ISL plants in Texas were on standby with a total capacity of 2.0 million pounds U3O8 per year. Lost Creek Project and Nichols Ranch ISR Project were under construction in Wyoming. There are seven ISL plants planned in New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming.
Total employment in the U.S. uranium production industry was 1,196 person-years in 2012, an increase of less than one percent from the 2011 total. Exploration employment was 161 person-years, a 23 percent decrease compared with 2011. Milling and processing employment was 394 person-years in 2012, and decreased 6 percent from 2011. Uranium mining employment was 462 person-years, the same as in 2011, while reclamation employment increased 75 percent to 179 person-years from 2011 to 2012. Uranium production industry employment for 2012 was in 11 States: Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
Total expenditures for land, exploration, drilling, production, and reclamation were $353 million in 2012, 11 percent more than in 2011. Expenditures for U.S. uranium production, including facility expenses, were the largest category of expenditures at $187 million in 2012 and were up by 11 percent from the 2011 level. Uranium exploration expenditures were $33 million and decreased 23 percent from 2011 to 2012. Expenditures for land were $17 million in 2012, a 14-percent decrease compared with 2011. Reclamation expenditures were $49 million, a 46-percent increase compared with 2011.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) in 2010 began collecting annual reserve estimates on the survey Form EIA-851A, "Domestic Uranium Production Report." To date, these annual reserve estimates span data years 2009 through 2012. There are no plans to publish data prior to 2012 due to reporting inconsistencies and data accuracy concerns.
The 2012 uranium reserves are estimated quantities of uranium in known mineral deposits of such size, grade, and configuration that the uranium could be recovered at or below a specified production cost (forward cost) with currently proven mining and processing technology and under current law and regulations. This information is collected from the entities that otherwise report on the Form EIA-851A; i.e. companies that conduct uranium drilling, exploration, mining, and reclamation.
Beginning with this report, and for the data year 2012, a new Table 10 includes uranium reserve estimates for mines and properties by status, mining method, and State. Sixteen respondents reported reserve estimates on 71 mines and properties. Estimated uranium reserves were 52 million pounds U3O8 at a maximum forward cost of up to $30 per pound. At up to $100 per pound, estimated reserves were 304 million pounds U3O8. At the end of 2012, estimated uranium reserves for mines in production were 21 million pounds U3O8 at a maximum forward cost of up to $50 per pound.
The uranium reserve estimates presented here cannot be compared with the much larger historical data set of uranium reserves published in the July 2010 report U.S. Uranium Reserves Estimates. Those reserve estimates were made by EIA based on data collected by EIA and data developed by the National Uranium Resource Evaluation (NURE) program, operated out of Grand Junction, Colorado, by DOE and predecessor organizations. The EIA data covered approximately 200 uranium properties with reserve estimates, collected from 1984 through 2002. The NURE data covered approximately 800 uranium properties with reserve estimates, developed from 1974 through 1983. Although the 2012 data collected by the Form EIA-851A survey covers a much smaller set of properties than the earlier EIA data and NURE data, EIA believes that within its scope the EIA-851A data provides more reliable estimates of the uranium recoverable at the specified forward cost than estimates derived from 1974 through 2003. In particular, this is because the NURE data has not been comprehensively updated in many years and is no longer a current data source.