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The US uranium mining market has increased by 22% over the past six years, to reach a market value of US$350 million in 2012, boosted by rising nuclear fuel prices and new technological development.
Uranium mining in the United States is the extraction of uranium-bearing ore from the earth, or In-situ leach recovery involving the extraction of uranium-bearing liquids. While uranium is used primarily for nuclear power, uranium mining had its roots in the production of uranium-bearing ore in 1898 with the mining of carnotite-bearing sandstones of the Colorado Plateau in Colorado and Utah, for their vanadium content. The late 1940s and early 1950s saw a boom in uranium mining in the western U.S., spurred by the fortunes made by prospectors such as Charlie Steen.
The United States was the world's leading producer of uranium from 1953 until 1980, when annual US production peaked at 16,810 metric tons. Until the early 1980s, there were active uranium mines in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
The turnover of US companies has decreased by 25% since 2006, reaching US$140 million in 2012. The drop in turnover was mainly due to the decreasing output which contracted by 60%. Even rising producer prices, which increased by a considerable 88% over the past six years, were unable to contribute to the growth of revenues as the industry faces very high pressure from imports and local reserves are limited.
In 2012, domestic production of uranium and thorium was undertaken by just a few companies due to high fixed costs of entry and the scarcity of resources. The largest of those include: Cameco Resources, a local subsidiary of Canadian Cameco; Denison Mines; and Uranium Resources.
Cameco Resources operates as a uranium producer, a supplier of conversion services, and fuel manufacturer. The company was formed in 2007 through a restructuring of two wholly-owned subsidiaries, Power Resources (Wyoming) and Crowe Butte Resources (Nebraska). Cameco Resources is the largest uranium producer in the US. It operates the Smith Ranch-Highland mine in eastern Wyoming's Powder River basin and the Crow Butte mine in Nebraska - both ISL operations and producing nearly 1,200 tonnes of uranium between them in 2009 from total reserves of 12,000 tonnes.
As the price of uranium has increased in recent years, there has been a revival in uranium mining, both exploration and extraction, on federal land in the US. In early 2012, thousands of claims were filed to explore for and potentially extract uranium on federal land. A number of companies announced plans to refurbish and re-start mines in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.
For more information on the US uranium mining market, see the latest research: US Uranium Mining Market
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