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Visualizing the Uranium Mining Industry in 3 Charts

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When uranium was discovered in 1789 by Martin Heinrich Klaproth, it’s likely the German chemist didn’t know how important the element would become to human life.

Used minimally in glazing and ceramics, uranium was originally mined as a byproduct of producing radium until the late 1930s. However, the discovery of nuclear fission, and the potential promise of nuclear power, changed everything.

What’s the current state of the uranium mining industry? This series of charts from Truman Du highlights production and the use of uranium using 2021 data from the World Nuclear Association (WNA) and Our World in Data.

Who are the Biggest Uranium Miners in the World?

Most of the world’s biggest uranium suppliers are based in countries with the largest uranium deposits, like Australia, Kazakhstan, and Canada.

The largest of these companies is Kazatomprom, a Kazakhstani state-owned company that produced 25% of the world’s new uranium supply in 2021.

A donut chart showing the biggest uranium mining companies and the percentage they contribute to the world's supply of uranium.

As seen in the above chart, 94% of the roughly 48,000 tonnes of uranium mined globally in 2021 came from just 13 companies.

Rank Company2021 Uranium Production (tonnes)Percent of Total
1🇰🇿 Kazatomprom 11,85825%
2🇫🇷 Orano 4,5419%
3🇷🇺 Uranium One 4,5149%
4🇨🇦 Cameco 4,3979%
5🇨🇳 CGN 4,1129%
6🇺🇿 Navoi Mining3,5007%
7🇨🇳 CNNC 3,5627%
8🇷🇺 ARMZ 2,6355%
9🇦🇺 General Atomics/Quasar 2,2415%
10🇦🇺 BHP 1,9224%
11🇬🇧 Energy Asia 9002%
12🇳🇪 Sopamin 8092%
13🇺🇦 VostGok 4551%
14Other2,8866%
Total48,332100%

France’s Orano, another state-owned company, was the world’s second largest producer of uranium at 4,541 tonnes.

Companies rounding out the top five all had similar uranium production numbers to Orano, each contributing around 9% of the global total. Those include Uranium One from Russia, Cameco from Canada, and CGN in China.

Where are the Largest Uranium Mines Found?

The majority of uranium deposits around the world are found in 16 countries with Australia, Kazakhstan, and Canada accounting for for nearly 40% of recoverable uranium reserves.

But having large reserves doesn’t necessarily translate to uranium production numbers. For example, though Australia has the biggest single deposit of uranium (Olympic Dam) and the largest reserves overall, the country ranks fourth in uranium supplied, coming in at 9%.

Here are the top 10 uranium mines in the world, accounting for 53% of the world’s supply.

A map of the largest mines and countries that undertake uranium mining.

Of the largest mines in the world, four are found in Kazakhstan. Altogether, uranium mined in Kazakhstan accounted for 45% of the world’s uranium supply in 2021.

Uranium MineCountryMain Owner2021 Production
Cigar Lake🇨🇦 CanadaCameco/Orano4,693t
Inkai 1-3🇰🇿 KazakhstanKazaktomprom/Cameco3,449t
Husab🇳🇦 NamibiaSwakop Uranium (CGN)3,309t
Karatau (Budenovskoye 2)🇰🇿 KazakhstanUranium One/Kazatomprom2,561t
Rössing🇳🇦 NamibiaCNNC2,444t
Four Mile🇦🇺 AustraliaQuasar2,241t
SOMAIR🇳🇪 NigerOrano1,996t
Olympic Dam🇦🇺 AustraliaBHP Billiton1,922t
Central Mynkuduk🇰🇿 KazakhstanOrtalyk1,579t
Kharasan 1🇰🇿 KazakhstanKazatomprom/Uranium One1,579t

Namibia, which has two of the five largest uranium mines in operation, is the second largest supplier of uranium by country, at 12%, followed by Canada at 10%.

Interestingly, the owners of these mines are not necessarily local. For example, France’s Orano operates mines in Canada and Niger. Russia’s Uranium One operates mines in Kazakhstan, the U.S., and Tanzania. China’s CGN owns mines in Namibia.

And despite the African continent holding a sizable amount of uranium reserves, no African company placed in the top 10 biggest companies by production. Sopamin from Niger was the highest ranked at #12 with 809 tonnes mined.

Uranium Mining and Nuclear Energy

Uranium mining has changed drastically since the first few nuclear power plants came online in the 1950s.

For 30 years, uranium production grew steadily due to both increasing demand for nuclear energy and expanding nuclear arsenals, eventually peaking at 69,692 tonnes mined in 1980 at the height of the Cold War.

Nuclear energy production (measured in terawatt-hours) also rose consistently until the 21st century, peaking in 2001 when it contributed nearly 7% to the world’s energy supply. But in the years following, it started to drop and flatline.

A chart plotting the total nuclear energy produced since 1950 and the percentage it contributes to the world's energy supply.

By 2021, nuclear energy had fallen to 4.3% of global energy production. Several nuclear accidents—Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima—contributed to turning sentiment against nuclear energy.

YearNuclear Energy
Production
% of Total Energy
196572 TWh0.2%
196698 TWh0.2%
1967116 TWh0.2%
1968148 TWh0.3%
1969175 TWh0.3%
1970224 TWh0.4%
1971311 TWh0.5%
1972432 TWh0.7%
1973579 TWh0.9%
1974756 TWh1.1%
19751,049 TWh1.6%
19761,228 TWh1.7%
19771,528 TWh2.1%
19781,776 TWh2.3%
19791,847 TWh2.4%
19802,020 TWh2.6%
19812,386 TWh3.1%
19822,588 TWh3.4%
19832,933 TWh3.7%
19843,560 TWh4.3%
19854,225 TWh5%
19864,525 TWh5.3%
19874,922 TWh5.5%
19885,366 TWh5.8%
19895,519 TWh5.8%
19905,676 TWh5.9%
19915,948 TWh6.2%
19925,993 TWh6.2%
19936,199 TWh6.4%
19946,316 TWh6.4%
19956,590 TWh6.5%
19966,829 TWh6.6%
19976,782 TWh6.5%
19986,899 TWh6.5%
19997,162 TWh6.7%
20007,323 TWh6.6%
20017,481 TWh6.7%
20027,552 TWh6.6%
20037,351 TWh6.2%
20047,636 TWh6.2%
20057,608 TWh6%
20067,654 TWh5.8%
20077,452 TWh5.5%
20087,382 TWh5.4%
20097,233 TWh5.4%
20107,374 TWh5.2%
20117,022 TWh4.9%
20126,501 TWh4.4%
20136,513 TWh4.4%
20146,607 TWh4.4%
20156,656 TWh4.4%
20166,715 TWh4.3%
20176,735 TWh4.3%
20186,856 TWh4.2%
20197,073 TWh4.3%
20206,789 TWh4.3%
20217,031 TWh4.3%

More recently, a return to nuclear energy has gained some support as countries push for transitions to cleaner energy, since nuclear power generates no direct carbon emissions.

What’s Next for Nuclear Energy?

Nuclear remains one of the least harmful sources of energy, and some countries are pursuing advancements in nuclear tech to fight climate change.

Small, modular nuclear reactors are one of the current proposed solutions to both bring down costs and reduce construction time of nuclear power plants. The benefits include smaller capital investments and location flexibility by trading off energy generation capacity.

With countries having to deal with aging nuclear reactors and climate change at the same time, replacements need to be considered. Will they come in the form of new nuclear power and uranium mining, or alternative sources of energy?

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Maps

Mapped: The World’s Wettest and Driest Countries

From tropical rainforests to the sandy deserts of North Africa, the world’s wettest and driest countries are a study in contrasts.

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A cropped map of the wettest and driest countries in the world along with their average annual precipitation in millimeters.

Where are the World’s Wettest and Driest Countries?

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

From tropical rainforest nations to the sandy deserts of North Africa and the Middle East, the world’s wettest and driest countries are a study in contrasts.

We map and rank the countries that receive the highest and lowest average annual precipitation in millimeters, per latest data from the World Bank.

Ranked: Top 10 Wettest Countries

Colombia tops the list of nations with the highest average precipitation at 3,240 millimeters (128 inches) in a year.

Its Tutunendo district is the one of the world’s wettest places, averaging nearly 12,000 mm (463 inches) of rain annually.

RankCountryAverage Annual
Precipitation (mm)
1Colombia3,240
2Sao Tome & Principe3,200
3Papua New Guinea3,142
4Solomon Islands3,028
5Panama2,928
6Costa Rica2,926
7Samoa2,880
8Malaysia2,875
9Brunei2,722
10Indonesia2,702

Note: Figures are rounded.

Off the coast of Africa however, Sao Tome & Principe is not far behind Colombia, receiving about 3,200 mm of rain in 2020.

Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands also average more than 3,000 mm of rain in a year, and Panama (2,928 mm) rounds out the top five.

Noticeably, all 10 countries lie in close proximity to the equator, and near oceans, where rising hot and humid air leads to abundant rainfall.

Ranked: Top 10 Driest Countries

On the other end of the scale, Egypt records the lowest average annual rainfall across all countries, at 18 mm (0.7 inches). For comparison, Colombia receives nearly 180x the amount of rain Egypt does.

RankCountryAverage Annual
Precipitation (mm)
1Egypt18
2Libya56
3Saudi Arabia59
4Qatar74
5UAE78
6Bahrain83
7Algeria89
8Mauritania92
9Jordan111
10Kuwait121

Note: Figures are rounded.

In fact, countries from North Africa and the Middle East make up the entirety of this list of the driest countries in the world.

Learn More About Rainfall From Visual Capitalist

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out Mapping the Unequal Distribution of Global Precipitation which divides the world into two halves: one that receives more than global average of rain (or snow), and one that receives less.

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