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Where Do Raw Materials Come From?

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Every “thing” comes from somewhere.

Whether we are talking about an iPhone or a battery, even the most complex technological device is made up of the raw materials that originate in a mine, farm, well, or forest somewhere in the world.

Here are the top producing countries for each major commodity worldwide:

Where do raw materials come from?

The above infographic from BullionVault shows the top three producing countries of various commodities such as oil, gold, coffee, or iron.

The Many and the Few

The origins of the world’s most important raw materials is interesting to examine, because the production of certain commodities are much more concentrated than others.

Oil, for example, is extracted by many countries throughout the world because it forms in fairly universal circumstances. Oil is also a giant market and a strategic resource, so some countries are even willing to produce it at a loss. The largest three crude oil producing countries are the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Russia – but that only makes up a mere 38% of the total market.

Contrast this to the market for some base metals such as iron or lead, and the difference is clear. China consumes mind-boggling amounts of raw materials to feed its factories, and so it tries to get them domestically if possible. That’s why China alone produces 45% of the world’s iron and 52% of all lead. Nearby Australia also finds a way to take advantage of this: it is the second largest producer for each of those commodities, and ships much of it to their Chinese trading partners. A total of two-thirds of the world’s iron and lead comes from these two countries, making production extremely concentrated.

But even that pales in comparison to the market for platinum, which is so heavily concentrated that only a few countries are significant producers. South Africa extracts 71% of all platinum, while Russia and Zimbabwe combine for another 19% of global production. That means that only one in every 10 ounces of platinum comes from a country other than those three sources.

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Charted: Global Uranium Reserves, by Country

We visualize the distribution of the world’s uranium reserves by country, with 3 countries accounting for more than half of total reserves.

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A cropped chart visualizing the distribution of the global uranium reserves, by country.

Charted: Global Uranium Reserves, by Country

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.

There can be a tendency to believe that uranium deposits are scarce from the critical role it plays in generating nuclear energy, along with all the costs and consequences related to the field.

But uranium is actually fairly plentiful: it’s more abundant than gold and silver, for example, and about as present as tin in the Earth’s crust.

We visualize the distribution of the world’s uranium resources by country, as of 2021. Figures come from the World Nuclear Association, last updated on August 2023.

Ranked: Uranium Reserves By Country (2021)

Australia, Kazakhstan, and Canada have the largest shares of available uranium resources—accounting for more than 50% of total global reserves.

But within these three, Australia is the clear standout, with more than 1.7 million tonnes of uranium discovered (28% of the world’s reserves) currently. Its Olympic Dam mine, located about 600 kilometers north of Adelaide, is the the largest single deposit of uranium in the world—and also, interestingly, the fourth largest copper deposit.

Despite this, Australia is only the fourth biggest uranium producer currently, and ranks fifth for all-time uranium production.

CountryShare of Global
Reserves
Uranium Reserves (Tonnes)
🇦🇺 Australia28%1.7M
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan13%815K
🇨🇦 Canada10%589K
🇷🇺 Russia8%481K
🇳🇦 Namibia8%470K
🇿🇦 South Africa5%321K
🇧🇷 Brazil5%311K
🇳🇪 Niger5%277K
🇨🇳 China4%224K
🇲🇳 Mongolia2%145K
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan2%131K
🇺🇦 Ukraine2%107K
🌍 Rest of World9%524K
Total100%6M

Figures are rounded.

Outside the top three, Russia and Namibia both have roughly the same amount of uranium reserves: about 8% each, which works out to roughly 470,000 tonnes.

South Africa, Brazil, and Niger all have 5% each of the world’s total deposits as well.

China completes the top 10, with a 3% share of uranium reserves, or about 224,000 tonnes.

A caveat to this is that current data is based on known uranium reserves that are capable of being mined economically. The total amount of the world’s uranium is not known exactly—and new deposits can be found all the time. In fact the world’s known uranium reserves increased by about 25% in the last decade alone, thanks to better technology that improves exploration efforts.

Meanwhile, not all uranium deposits are equal. For example, in the aforementioned Olympic Dam, uranium is recovered as a byproduct of copper mining occurring at the same site. In South Africa, it emerges as a byproduct during treatment of ores in the gold mining process. Orebodies with high concentrations of two substances can increase margins, as costs can be shared for two different products.

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