China Comment

Energy, Environment, and Economy

Uranium Update

China’s 2006 agreement for Australian companies to supply uranium to China, has finally borne some fruit. (And see Forbes). Energy Resources of Australia (ERA), which is controlled by Rio Tinto and which produces 10% of the world’s uranium, agreed to make a one-off shipment in the fourth quarter to an unidentified Chinese electricity company. The uranium will come from the Ranger mine. Australia holds 40% of the world’s known uranium reserves (Forbes).

Ranger is Australia’s most productive uranium mine, producing 5256 tonnes in 2006-07. It is located in the Northern Territory. Politically, it is a slightly controversial mine, due to its location near a World Heritage site and some concerns regarding its safety record.

Other Uranium Sources

China domestically mines for uranium, but it also acquires it abroad from Kazakhstan . Other countries listed as sources include Namibia. It is important to note that although as I detail in China’s Nuclear Power, China believes it may have a fair amount of uranium, as of 2007 its “proven uranium reserves within China, even if it was possible to fully extract them, could only fuel 40 GW for 50-60 years, according to China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Co., the country’s second-largest nuclear builder by assets,” according to Dow Jones. And that dearth of power could by necessity make China an international player on the uranium markets since China wants to have 60 GW of capacity by 2020.

Kazakhstan – As of October 2007, “China will get a stake in a 2,000-ton-a-year uranium mine in Kazakhstan in exchange for its share in a uranium-processing business… Kazatomprom said on Oct. 12 it signed agreements in Beijing with the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group and the China National Nuclear Corporation, China’s largest producers of atomic energy”, according to the NYT quoting a Bloomberg article. Kazakhstan currently has an agreement to ship nearly half  of China’s uranium imports. (Kazakhstan holds 17% of known global uranium reserves). Kazatomprom is the world’s second largest uranium supplier as of 2007, accounting for 12% of global supply.

Namibia – “Canadian mining company UraMin will sell 35% of the [Klein-Trekkopje] mine’s output to China.”

Niger – China also explores for uranium for its nuclear power plants in Niger. In what is perhaps too much wishful thinking, ” Niger hopes to become the world’s number two uranium producer by 2011 thanks to new mines being opened by France’s Areva and the China Nuclear International Uranium Corp. (Sino-U)” (Reuters). In production capacity, Niger is currently behind Canada, Australia, Kazakhstan, and Russia.

TajikistanOnly accessible by Subscription, the Times of Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan) , quoted “China’s company eyes uranium deposits in Tajikistan” in Google News which claimed that “China’s Guangdong Corporation is interested in participation in development of uranium deposits in Tajikistan.” So it appears that talks have begun for uranium development in that Central Asian country. More news stories on this will hopefully develop.

Mongolia -There have been some talks (May 2007) http://www.mongolia-web.com/content/view/1044/2/ about China acquiring Mongolian uranium. Future agreements appear to be in the developmental stage. Mongolia may attempt to play China and Russia against each other for better deals. Russia appears to currently have the upper-hand in current prospective deal-making. “In April 2008 Russia and Mongolia signed a high-level agreement to cooperate in identifying and developing Mongolia’s uranium resources” (World Nuclear).

* More on China’s Nuclear Power industry in my article, “China’s Nuclear Power.”

* An interesting article on the Kazakh Uranium Industry. (I’m a little concerned about some of the numbers used in the article, but haven’t had time to double-check [it would take hours]. They seem okay, and the article IS on CNN, but if something seems out of place, it’s probably worth further investigation.)

* CFR also had a good report on the world’s Uranium Industry.

* Factsheets on Uranium from Cameco (slightly outdated in some places, but nice.)

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28 July, 2008 - Posted by | China Energy | , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. Mongolia is another country you should look at for uranium deposits. It’s closer to China and more politically stable than the “Stans.” Of course, the Russia factor comes into play here.

    Comment by Damien | 30 July, 2008

  2. Thanks for the heads-up.

    I notice there have been some talks (May 2007) http://www.mongolia-web.com/content/view/1044/2/ about China acquiring Mongolian uranium. Nothing appears to have come of that, but it certainly is possible for future developments. I’ll add it to the list.

    As you mention, the majority of Mongolian uranium appears to be going to Russia.
    http://www.cacianalyst.org/?q=node/4900
    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf118_centralasiauranium.html?terms=mongolia

    Even though China is a huge trader with Mongolia, I see Mongolia strategically choosing Russia as a resource partner over China. Mongolia has good reason to hold varying levels of animosity toward both states, but the actual deals, as mentioned by world-nuclear (see link above), still appear to be going more toward Russia than China-

    “In April 2008 Russia and Mongolia signed a high-level agreement to cooperate in identifying and developing Mongolia’s uranium resources. Russia is also examining the feasibility of building nuclear power plants in Mongolia.” (WorldNuclear)

    Thanks again.

    Comment by chinacomment | 30 July, 2008

  3. […] nuclear plants of any country in the upcoming ten years (and subsequently demanding a great deal of uranium), China will find it difficult to quickly displace coal’s dominance of China’s energy […]

    Pingback by China’s Coal (Part II) « China Comment | 24 November, 2009


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