Russia plans to double uranium production during next five years
Russian nuclear monopoly Rosatom plans to almost double the volume of uranium production during the next five years, despite the current low global prices for the metal.
Implementation of these plans will take place by Rosatom through its Uranium One (U1) subsidiary, which is part of Rosatom, bringing together foreign uranium assets of the company.
At the initial stage of the project, U1 plans to focus on the development of highly enriched uranium fields in Kazakhstan. As part of the company’s plans, the volume of the Kazakh uranium production will be increased by 18%, up to 5,500 tonnes. The increase of Kazakh production will be also beneficial for U1 due to low cost of uranium production in the country.
It is planned that implementation of the Kazakh project will take place through the expansion of joint projects of U1 with local Kazatomprom, a state-owned nuclear holding company in Kazakhstan.
According to Alexander Boytsov, director of U1’s department of resource development, in addition to Kazakh production, the company plans to start the development of uranium fields in Tanzania. Successful implementation of the Tanzanian project will help U1 to increase the overal volume of its uranium production up to 10,000 tonnes and to resume its activities in the field of uranium production.
Due to low global uranium prices, Rosatom decided to suspend investments in the development of new uranium fields in November 2013. In addition, the company has also decided to suspend activities on the existing uranium fields.
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According to a spokesman of Rosatom, much will depend on further development of situation in the global uranium market. Spot uranium prices are currently varied in the range of US$38-40 per pound of uranium oxide, due to a low global demand for uranium, which observed in recent years and which was mainly caused by the suspension of many nuclear reactors in Japan and Europe.
Due to this, Rosatom decided to close and later sold its Australian Honeymoon uranium field to local Boss Resources and Wattle Mining Pty Ltd companies.
In addition, the company decided to reduce production on its US Willow Creek nuclear asset from 900,000 to 600,000 pounds of uranium oxide in 2014.
In the case of Tanzania, particular hopes of Rosatom are related with the launch of the local Mkuju River uranium mine, which overal reserves are estimated at 48,000 tonnes, of which the share of U1 is equivalent to 6,700 tonnes.
The time of the development of the mine is not disclosed, however, according to some local media reports, there is a possibility that it may be launched already in April 2016.
The development of uranium fileds in Tanzania can be beneficial for the company, due to its plans to use underground leaching, which is the most modern method of uranium production and which is associated with lower costs.
At the same time, in addition to foreign projects, as part of the plans of Rosatom is a significant increase of the domestic uranium production. This will mainly take place on the Khiagdinskoye ore field in Buryatia, which overall reserves are estimated of over 300,000 tonnes of uranium.
Still, despite the plans of Russia to significantly increase the volume of uranium production during the next several years it will be still lower the figures of Kazakhstan, the world’s largest uranium producer since 2009.
Over the past 10 years, the country has increased the volume of its production by almost six times. Last year the Kazakh uranium production increased by 1.5 percent – up to 22.829 tonnes.
Eugene Gerden is an international free-lance writer, based in St. Petersburg, who specializes on writing in the field of mining, metals and rare earth metals. ... <Read more about Eugene Gerden>