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Uranium Ore Deposits

(last updated 18 May 2012)

Contents:


Uranium Ore Deposits

Geology


The International Atomic Energy Agency assigns the uranium deposits according to their geological settings to 15 main categories of deposit types, arranged according to their approximate economic significance [IAEA2004]:
  1. Unconformity-related deposits
  2. Sandstone deposits
  3. Quartz-pebble conglomerate deposits
  4. Vein deposits
  5. Breccia complex deposits
  6. Intrusive deposits
  7. Phosphorite deposits
  8. Collapse breccia pipe deposits
  9. Volcanic deposits
  10. Surficial deposits
  11. Metasomatite deposits
  12. Metamorphic deposits
  13. Lignite
  14. Black shale deposits
  15. Other types of deposits

Literature:

Surficial Uranium Deposits (Report of the Working Group on Uranium Geology), IAEA-TECDOC-322, 1985.
> Download Full Text external link, (17804 kB PDF ).

Geological Environments of Sandstone Type Uranium Deposits (Report of the Working Group on Uranium Geology), IAEA-TECDOC-328, 1985.
> Download Full Text external link (27281 kB PDF )

Vein Type Uranium Deposits (Report of a Working Group on Uranium Geology), IAEA-TECDOC-361, 1986.
> Download Full Text external link (33984 kB PDF )

Uranium Deposits in Proterozoic Quartz-pebble Conglomerates (Report of the Working Group on Uranium Geology), IAEA-TECDOC-427, 1987.
> Download Full Text external link (27668 kB PDF )

Volcanogenic Uranium Deposits: Geology, Geochemical Processes, and Criteria for Resource Assessment, by J. Thomas Nash, USGS Open-File Report 2010-1001, U.S. Geological Survey 2010, 99 p.
> Download Full Text external link

Inturgeo: the International Uranium Geology Information System (A World Atlas of Uranium Occurrences and Deposits), IAEA-TECDOC-471, 1988.
> Download Full Text external link (22757 kB PDF )

Franz J. Dahlkamp: Uranium Ore Deposits, 460 p., Berlin Heidelberg 1993 [detailed description of the geology of uranium deposits]

World Distribution of Uranium Deposits (UDEPO), with Uranium Deposit Classification, 2009 Edition, IAEA-TECDOC-1629, 2009
> Download Full text external link (2.25M PDF PDF)

Franz J. Dahlkamp: Uranium Deposits of the World: USA and Latin America, Berlin Heidelberg 2009, 535 p.

Franz J. Dahlkamp: Uranium Deposits of the World: Asia, Berlin Heidelberg 2010, 508 p.

Franz J. Dahlkamp: Uranium Deposits of the World: Australia, Oceania and Africa, Berlin Heidelberg TBA

Franz J. Dahlkamp: Uranium Deposits of the World: Europe, Berlin Heidelberg TBA


Size and Grade


The International Atomic Energy Agency defines the following categories for uranium resources [IAEA2004]: Since not all uranium can be recovered from an ore deposit during mining and milling, resource estimates can be meant for:
MeaningLosses taken into acount
in-situ resourcesuranium contained in ore depositnone
recoverable in-situ resourcesuranium contained in mineable oremining losses
recoverable quantities of uraniumuranium recoverable from mineable oremining and milling losses

IAEA uses the term "resources" for recoverable quantities of uranium.

 

Various other categories are in use worldwide, for example:

Definitions by the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum and incorporated into National Instrument 43-101:

CIM DEFINITION STANDARDS - For Mineral Resources and Mineral Reserves external link

The amount of reported resources does not include those amounts identified as reserves.

 

An ore grade of 1% U3O8 is equivalent to 0.848% U.
(see also Unit Converter: Uranium concentration (wt.) · Uranium contents in ore)

1 million lbs U3O8 are equivalent to approx. 385 metric tonnes of U. (see also Unit Converter: Uranium weight)


Recovery Cost


The International Atomic Energy Agency uses the following cost categories for uranium resources [IAEA2004]:

Current Uranium Prices

Uranium Mine Feasibility Calculator

(see also Unit Converter: Uranium price · Uranium weight <-> cost)


Known Resources


Identified World Uranium Resources [tU]
Resource CategoryCost Ranges
< 40$/kgU< 80$/kgU< 130$/kgU
Reasonably Assured Resources (RAR)1,766,4002,598,0003,338,300
Inferred Resources1,203,6001,858,4002,130,600
TOTAL2,970,0004,456,4005,468,800
[IAEA2008]
"t" stands for metric tonne.
Not all countries report separate figures for the two lowest cost categories.
The figures are adjusted to account for mining and milling losses.

World Uranium Resources: data and interactive map (Java required) · static map new window

World Atlas of Uranium Deposits (UDEPO) external link new window (INFCIS, IAEA)

World Distribution of Uranium Deposits (UDEPO), with Uranium Deposit Classification, 2009 Edition, IAEA-TECDOC-1629, 2009
> Download Full text external link (2.25M PDF PDF)

> Calculate lifespan of the world uranium resources with the Nuclear Fuel Supply Calculator

> See also: Uranium Mines · Uranium Market


Uranium in Phosphate Rock


The world average uranium content in phosphate rock is estimated at 50 - 200 ppm. World uranium resources in phosphate rock are estimated at approx. 9 million t U.

> See: Uranium Recovery from Phosphates


Uranium in Waste Materials


A variety of waste materials may contain elevated concentrations of uranium that might be recoverable in certain circumstances, for example gold and/or uranium mill tailings, coal ash, and other waste materials.

> See current issues: Uranium recovery from waste materials


Uranium in Oceans


Sea water contains approximately 3 ppb of uranium (= 3 mg/t).

> See current proposals for uranium recovery from sea water: USA · Japan · India


Uranium in the Interior of the Earth


Biggest uranium deposit ever detected - though a little bit hard to come by

The observation of geo-neutrinos at the Borexino external link detector at the Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso (Italy) proves that a significant fraction, if not the majority of the geothermal heat power of the Earth of 40 Tera-Watt (TW = 1012 W) is generated from the decay of uranium and thorium. (Max-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik, Mar. 15, 2010)

If this geothermal power is solely attributed to the decay heat of uranium and its progeny, this would indicate an amount of 400 trillion (400 • 1012) tonnes of uranium in the interior of the Earth. This would be sufficient to meet the current world requirements of 69,110 t U (2007) for approx. 5.8 billion years.

1 g Unat in secular equilibrium with its progeny (U-238 and U-235 series) produces approx. 600 GeV/s of decay power (550 GeV/s from alpha, 27 GeV/s from beta, and 23 GeV/s from gamma decay, see Uranium Decay Calculator).
600 GeV/s is equivalent to 9.613 • 10-8 W, or roughly 0.1 microWatt, so 10 t of Unat are required to generate a power of 1 W (see Unit Converter).
The total heat flux from the Earth is 40 TW. If all of this were from decay of Unat and its progeny, then 400 Tt (= 400 • 1012 t) Unat would be required to generate this heat flux.

New geoneutrino measurements found that decay of uranium-238 and thorium-232 together contribute 20 +8.8/-8.6 TW to Earth's total heat flux of 44.2 ±1.0 TW, while the neutrinos emitted from the decay of potassium-40 are known to contribute 4 TW.
> Partial radiogenic heat model for Earth revealed by geoneutrino measurements external link, by The KamLAND Collaboration, in: Nature Geoscience, Published online 17 July 2011

This means that there would be "only" max. 200 trillion tonnes of uranium in the interior of the Earth.


Uranium on the Moon


Scientists find first conclusive signature for lunar uranium

Robert C. Reedy, a senior scientist at the Tucson-based Planetary Science Institute external link, is mapping the moon's surface elements using data gathered by an advanced gamma-ray spectrometer (GRS) that rode aboard the Japanese Kaguya spacecraft. The data promise to show chemical elements on the moon that have never been identified before, and Reedy and the Kaguya GRS team already have found uranium signatures in the data, an element not seen in previous moon-mapping efforts. (Planetary Science Institute June 26, 2009)

New moon map shows uranium in short supply

A new map of uranium on the moon has revealed the lunar surface to be a poor source of the radioactive stuff, but it could help solve mysteries as to how the moon formed. This new moon uranium map dampens hopes of a nuclear power industry on the lunar surface, researchers said. Proponents of lunar bases and future lunar colonies have long pointed to many of the moons minerals, along with water, as being useful to support such efforts. "Forget things like uranium mines or nuclear reactors," said cosmochemist Robert Reedy, a member of the Kaguya science team and a senior scientist at the Tucson-based Planetary Science Institute. "The concentrations are very far from being of commercial levels." The new map was created using data from Japan's Kaguya spacecraft, which launched in 2007. The spacecraft found uranium on the moon, along with other radioactive elements, with its advanced gamma-ray spectrometer. The new moon uranium map clearly shows the element is not abundant on the moon. In moon rock, it appears in quantities less than in many Earth granites. The scientists detailed their findings online May 20 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. (Space.com June 22, 2010)
Yamashita, N., et al. (2010), Uranium on the Moon: Global distribution and U/Th ratio, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L10201, doi:10.1029/2010GL043061.


References


[IAEA2008] Uranium 2007 - Resources, Production and Demand, OECD Nuclear Energy Agency external link and International Atomic Energy Agency external link, Paris 2004

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