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Uranium Mining in the United States

The US may be ninth in world production of uranium, but many US-based companies are conducting exploration of uranium deposits. Here's an overview of uranium mining in the US.

Uranium in the United States is used primarily for nuclear power. However, uranium mining originally had its roots in the production of uranium-bearing ore in 1898. At that time, sandstone material on the Colorado Plateau in Colorado and Utah was mined for its vanadium content.

In the 1950s, the US permitted a great deal of uranium mining. This was promoted by federal subsidies and rising global demand largely driven by nuclear weapons procurement programs. The trend lasted until the early 1980s, when changing geopolitical circumstances as well as safety, environmental, and economic concerns over nuclear power plants reduced demand.

Peak production levels reached a climax in 1980 with over 250 mines in operation producing 16,800 tonnes of uranium. But within four years, this abruptly dropped to 50 mines producing 5,700 tonnes, leading to a steady decline. By 2003 there were only two small operations producing a total of under 1,000 tonnes, or about 5 percent of the uranium consumed by US nuclear plants.

Mining operations are currently undertaken by few companies on a relatively small scale. However, exploration is being conducted by many companies, often going over areas that were mined in the 1950s-80s.

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