Kazakhstan’s 2011 uranium output up 9 pct at 19,450 T

Feb 3. Reuters

By Dmitry Solovyov and Raushan Nurshayeva

* Kazakhstan is world’s No. 1 uranium producer with 35 pct share
* Kazatomprom held 20 pct of global uranium output in 2011
* Kazakh uranium keeps 17 pct of world’s nuclear reactors running
* Kazatomprom sees nation’s 2012-15 uranium output at 25,000 T

Kazakhstan's 2011 uranium output up 9 pct at 19,450 TKazakhstan boosted uranium output by about 9 percent to 19,450 tonnes in 2011, consolidating its position as the world’s largest producer of the metal with a 35 percent share of global output, state nuclear firm Kazatomprom said on Friday.

Kazatomprom said its own production totalled 11,079 tonnes and accounted for 20 percent of global production of the metal, which is used to produce nuclear fuel.

“In 2011, Kazakhstan maintained its position as the global leader of the uranium mining industry by providing 35 percent of the world’s uranium output, which according to preliminary data totalled 55,400 tonnes,” Kazatomprom said in a statement.

In 2012-15, Kazakhstan planned to boost its output of the metal to up to 25,000 tonnes, Kazatomprom head Vladimir Shkolnik said in the capital Astana on Friday.

“The company’s efforts will focus on maintaining its leading positions on the world’s uranium market, on diversifying to a maximum all chains of the company’s nuclear fuel production cycle, and on boosting its scientific and technological potential to cooperate in related hi-tech sectors,” he said.

Shkolnik also said Kazatomprom expected a net profit of 77.5 billion tenge ($521 million) for 2011, and said that could rise in the 2012-15 period.

The national production figure for 2011 was slightly above a preliminary government estimate of “about 19,000 tonnes” issued on Thursday, and not far from an original output target for 2011 of 19,600 tonnes.

Kazatomprom said it maintained its presence in all regions where nuclear power plants are in use – Europe, Asia and the United States – and said it met all long-term contractual obligations in 2011.

“The volume of supplies to consumers on contracts with Kazatomprom totalled 10,399 tonnes of uranium, which comprises about 17 percent of the world’s nuclear reactor needs.”

Kazatomprom, which employs more than 23,000 workers, mines uranium on its own and through a series of joint ventures with international companies such as Areva, Cameco Corp and Sumitomo Corp.

Kazakhstan, which holds more than 15 percent of global uranium reserves, second only to Australia, surpassed Canada in 2009 as the world’s largest producer. However, it has no nuclear power stations of its own and does not use any uranium byproducts.