Any Canadian who’s remotely familiar with nuclear technology has probably heard of uranium. A little factoid: it’s the predominant fuel for nuclear reactors across the country and around the world, with about 15% of Canada's total production used to support CANDU reactors in Ontario and New Brunswick.
But did you know that Canada happens to be the second largest uranium producing nation? This metal is found in abundance within the country, and uranium mining in Canada - Saskatchewan in particular - is nothing new.
Uranium Mines & Related Facilities in Canada
Canada is a World Leader in Uranium Production
According to the World Nuclear Association (chart above), Canada was the world’s leading producer of uranium for many years, accounting for about 22% of the world’s total output up to 2009. Canada was overtaken by Kazakhstan as the top producer that same year.
Today, Canada is the second largest uranium producer. But despite it being pushed back a spot, it still has a lot to boast about.
Canada is home to the McArthur River and Cigar Lake mines found in northern Saskatchewan that are two of the largest and highest-grade uranium mines in the world.
With vast known resources – about 583,000 tonnes of U3O8 (triuranium octoxide, a stable form of uranium oxide) – and continued exploration efforts to date, Canada will play a substantial role in meeting world demand now and in the future.
To paint a picture of the uranium mining in Canada in the past, present and future, we’ve compiled several facts for you below.
15 Canadian Uranium Mining Facts
- Canada has the 4th largest uranium resources in the world after Australia, Kazakhstan and Russia
- Uranium exploration in Canada began in earnest in 1942 during the Second World War
- In 1959, Canada produced over 12,000 tonnes of uranium which yielded $330 million in export revenue, the highest value of any mineral export that year
- Up to 2014, Canada mined more uranium than any other country – about 1/5th of the world’s total – at 485,000 tU (tonnes uranium)
- The McArther River, one of the largest (in terms of production) and highest-grade uranium deposits in the world, was discovered in 1988
- The McArthur River mine has deposits that average 18% uranium content, upwards of 100 times greater than the average grade of deposits elsewhere across the planet
- In 2016, Canada’s share of world uranium production was 22%, worth about $2 billion
- Canada has the largest high-grade uranium deposits with grades of up to 20% uranium (100x higher than the world’s average)
- More than 85% of mined uranium in Canada is exported. The remainder is used to fuel CANDU reactors within Canada
- Of the 19 operating CANDU nuclear reactors in Canada, 18 are found in Ontario and 1 in New Brunswick
- A vast majority of exported uranium from Canada goes to the United States, Europe and Asia
- All Saskatchewan uranium mines have international ISO 14001 environmental certification
- More than 40 companies are engaged in active exploration for new uranium deposits in Canada
- While most exploration is concentrated in northern Saskatchewan, other prospects in Labrador, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Nunavut and Ontario are also being examined
- Uranium mining is currently banned in three Canadian provinces: British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Quebec
Learn More About Uranium Mining in Canada
For a more in-depth read on Uranium Mining in Canada, check out World Nuclear Association: Uranium in Canada.
Also see Natural Resources Canada: Uranium Mining for even more insight from the federal government.
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