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Uranium in Canada

Canada is the world’s second largest producer of uranium, accounting for roughly 13% of total global output.

The mining and milling of uranium is an $800-million-a-year industry that directly employs over 2,000 Canadians at the mine sites, more than half of whom are residents of northern Saskatchewan. Uranium is used in commercial nuclear power plants in several countries to produce electricity, including Canadian-built CANDU (CANadian Deuterium Uranium) reactors, which currently supply about 15% of Canada’s electricity.

The Uranium and Radioactive Waste Division provides ’xpert technical, policy and economic information and advice to the Minister and the federal government on issues affecting Canadian uranium exploration, development, environmental protection, production, supply capability, foreign ownership, domestic and international markets, exports, international trade and end uses. It also represents Canada on uranium issues in various multinational organizations and administers the Non Resident Ownership Policy in the Uranium Mining Sector.

About uranium

Key descriptors

  • Canada is the world's second largest producer of uranium, with 13% of global production in 2018.
  • Canada has the world's largest deposits of high-grade uranium with grades of up to 20% uranium, which is 100 times greater than the world average.
  • In 2018, Canada produced 6,996 tonnes of uranium, all from mines in northern Saskatchewan.
  • Nearly 85% of Canada’s uranium production is exported. The remainder is used to fuel CANDU reactors in Canada.
  • With its resource base and current output, Canada is well positioned to maintain its importance in uranium production in the future.

Industry structure

The Canadian uranium industry is composed of firms that mine and mill raw uranium ore, refine and convert it into uranium dioxide and uranium hexafluoride, and produce fuel bundles for CANDU nuclear reactors.

The key producers in Canada are Cameco Corporation and Orano Canada Inc., which rank among the world’s leading uranium suppliers. A number of joint venture partners work with Cameco and Orano in their mining and milling operations. In addition, hundreds of companies in Canada fill specific niches in the uranium industry, such as uranium exploration and engineering services. Canadian uranium is used to meet the nuclear-fuel requirements of electric utilities in Canada and around the world.

In Canada, mining is usually governed by provincial regulations. Uranium production, however, is also under federal jurisdiction. Canada’s independent nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, regulates uranium mines and mills and all subsequent stages of the nuclear-fuel cycle, such as refining, conversion and fuel fabrication, to protect health, safety, security and the environment.


Most of Canada’s reserves are located in the Athabasca Basin of northern Saskatchewan, which hosts the world’s largest high-grade deposits, with grades that are 10 to 100 times greater than the average grade of deposits mined elsewhere in the world.

Canada’s uranium resources are the fourth largest in the world, after those of Australia, Kazakhstan and Russia. As of January 1, 2017, Canada held 514,000 tonnes or 8 per cent of the world’s total uranium known resources recoverable at a uranium price of US $130 per kilogram. At higher prices, additional uranium deposits would be deemed economically recoverable, thereby increasing Canada’s uranium resources.

At current production levels, the known uranium deposits will last more than 40 years. However, geological evidence points to the existence of significant undiscovered deposits.


Canada is the world’s second largest producer of uranium, with about 13% of total world production. In 2018, Canada produced 6,996 tonnes of uranium valued at approximately $800 million.


The world’s largest and Canada’s only uranium refinery is located at Blind River, Ontario, where uranium ore concentrates from Canada and abroad are refined to produce uranium trioxide. This product is shipped to a conversion facility in Port Hope, Ontario, which produces uranium hexafluoride and also produces the world’s only commercial supply of fuel-grade natural uranium dioxide. Uranium hexafluoride is exported to produce enriched uranium fuel for light-water reactors in the United States and elsewhere. Uranium dioxide is shipped to fuel fabrication facilities in Port Hope, Toronto and Peterborough, Ontario, to produce natural uranium fuel for CANDU reactors.

Exports and domestic consumption

Approximately 85 per cent of Canada’s uranium production is exported. In 2018, the value of Canadian-origin uranium exports amounted to approximately $600 million. Exports are chiefly to the United States, Europe and Asia.

The remaining uranium is used to fuel domestic CANDU reactors, which currently supply about 15% of the electricity used in Canada. Of the 19 operating CANDU reactors in Canada, 18 are located in Ontario and one is in New Brunswick.

Uranium mining

Uranium is one of the heaviest and more common elements in the earth's crust. Its most distinctive physical property is its radioactivity, which contributes largely to the natural background radiation of the earth. Deposits of sufficient size and grade are required to make mining economically feasible. Locating such uranium deposits generally involves either ground and/or airborne geophysical surveys in areas of favourable geology, followed by drilling programs to test potential targets. If a uranium deposit is found, further drilling is required to more accurately delineate the deposit size and grade, prior to making a decision to develop a mine.


Mining uranium deposits presents several technical challenges in terms of ground water, rock properties and radiation protection. Uranium producers overcome these challenges to mine very high-grade deposits by developing innovative ground freezing techniques and mechanized, "non-entry" underground-mining methods. For lower-grade deposits, more traditional open-pit and underground mining methods are used. Safety is complicated by the presence of radioactive radon gas. This potential hazard is minimized by using powerful ventilation systems in underground mines, as well as remote-controlled and specially shielded equipment.

Uranium processing


Uranium ore is crushed and processed in uranium mills, located at or near the mines, to extract uranium using chemical processes. A fine powder, called "yellowcake", is the resulting uranium concentrate product and is packed in 55 U.S. gallon ring-sealed drums containing approximately one-half tonne of yellowcake. Mine tailings are stored in engineered tailings management facilities which are designed to permanently isolate the wastes from the environment. All process water from the mill, and water used in tailings management, is treated prior to release.


The yellowcake produced at the mills is about 70% uranium. At a refinery, in Canada at Blind River, Ontario, it is further processed to remove impurities, then chemically converted to uranium trioxide, a form suitable for further processing.


Additional processing at a "conversion" facility, in Canada at Port Hope, Ontario, is required to chemically transform the product to either uranium dioxide, for CANDU reactor fuel, or uranium hexafluoride, the feedstock for enriched light water reactor fuel. Most reactors outside Canada are light water reactors that use enriched uranium fuel.

Fuel fabrication

In Canada, natural uranium dioxide powder, packaged in drums at the conversion plant, is shipped to one of the two fuel fabricators. Currently, both fuel fabricators manufacture only uranium fuel assemblies comprised of natural uranium. The uranium dioxide powder is first pressed into cylindrical shapes and "fired" to produce ceramic fuel pellets. The pellets, about 2 cm long and 1 cm in diameter, are then trucked to a plant where they are placed in 50 cm-long zirconium alloy tubes, and fastened together into 10 cm-diameter fuel bundles for CANDU-type reactors in Canada and abroad.

Uranium production

In 2018, Canada retained its position as the world’s second largest uranium producer with output totaling 6,996 tU (tonnes of uranium metal). All current production is located in the Athabasca Basin of northern Saskatchewan. Uranium continues to rank among Canada’s top 10 metal commodities in terms of output value.

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