Investing

Uranium Stocks: 5 Biggest Companies in 2024

Uranium is an important energy sector commodity, and its rising value is attracting investor interest.

In the early months of 2024, uranium prices have surged to 16 year highs of more than US$100 per pound, and experts are optimistic about the future. With demand set to rise as clean energy gains traction and supply security becomes increasingly important, many market watchers are calling for much higher prices, as well as share price gains for uranium stocks.

With uranium’s bright future in mind, it’s worth looking at the world’s leading uranium miners. The list below lays out the five largest uranium companies by market cap. All data was current as of February 9, 2024.

1. BHP (NYSE:BHP,ASX:BHP,LSE:BHP)

Company Profile

Market cap: US$153.36 billion

BHP’s Olympic Dam mine in Australia is one of the largest uranium deposits in the world. Although copper is the primary resource mined at Olympic Dam, the asset also hosts uranium, gold and silver.

After completing a comprehensive study, the major miner scrapped plans for a brownfields expansion at Olympic Dam in late 2020. Citing the complexity of the copper deposit, BHP instead has opted to focus on ‘targeted debottlenecking investments, plant upgrades and modernization of infrastructure’ at the Australian property.

In the company’s 2023 fiscal year, uranium output from the Olympic Dam totaled 3.4 million metric tons (MT) of uranium oxide concentrate, an increase of 1.03 million MT from the previous year’s production.

Currently, BHP is looking for new opportunities to add to its resource profile. One area of interest for the company is Oak Dam in South Australia, at which high-grade copper, gold, silver and uranium mineralization has been identified. BHP is currently conducting resource definition drilling at the site with results expected for release later this year. Rising uranium prices are giving further support to the business case for further development at Oak Dam.

2. Cameco (NYSE:CCJ,TSX:CCO)

Company Profile

Market cap: US$25.89 billion

Cameco’s key operations include a 54.55 percent stake in the Cigar Lake mine, which is considered the most prolific uranium mine in the world. The company also has a 70 percent stake in the McArthur River mine and an 83 percent interest in the Key Lake mill. All three are located in the Athabasca Basin of Saskatchewan, Canada, which is a prolific uranium jurisdiction. Orano Canada is its primary joint venture partner in the three operations.

While Cameco is a well-known uranium producer, it has faced challenges in recent years. Back in 2018, Cameco shuttered McArthur River and Key Lake due to weak uranium prices. The closures reduced Cameco’s uranium supply dramatically from 23.8 million pounds in 2017 to 9.2 million pounds in 2018. Additionally, like many companies, it took a hit during COVID-19, temporarily shutting down production at Cigar Lake in December 2020 for four months.

In early 2022, Cameco announced that improving uranium prices had encouraged management to bring the McArthur River operation back online. The first pounds of uranium ore from the newly reopened mine were milled and packaged at the Key Lake mill in November 2022.

Given the excellent fundamentals in the uranium market, Cameco plans to produce 18 million pounds at each of its McArthur River/Key Lake and Cigar Lake operations in 2024. At Cigar Lake, the company is looking to extend the estimated mine life to 2036, and evaluate potentially expanding production at McArthur River/Key Lake to its annual licensed capacity of 25 million pounds.

In the US, Cameco owns the Smith Ranch-Highland operation in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, as well as the Crow Butte operation in Nebraska; production was curtailed at both as of 2016. Additionally, Cameco has a 40 percent stake in the Inkai mine in Kazakhstan. The other 60 percent is owned by Kazatomprom (LSE:59OT).

Cameco inked a major contract with Ukraine in February 2023 that will see the mining giant supply uranium to the country’s nuclear industry through 2035. In October 2023, the company signed a uranium supply agreement with one of China’s largest nuclear power operators, China Nuclear International.

3. NexGen Energy (NYSE:NXE,TSX:NXE,ASX:NXG)

Company Profile

Market cap: US$5.33 billion

Uranium exploration and development company NexGen Energy is focused on projects in the Athabasca Basin. Its main property is Rook I, which hosts a number of discoveries, including Arrow and South Arrow. NexGen also holds a 50.1 percent interest in exploration-stage company IsoEnergy (TSXV:ISO,OTCQX:ISENF).

NexGen’s feasibility study for Rook I ‘outlines an initial 11 year mine capable of producing 29 Mlbs U308 per annum (first 5 years), making it the largest and lowest cost uranium mine in the world,” according to the company.

The Saskatchewan government recently gave the green light for the company’s 2023 site infrastructure and confirmation program at Rook I, which will involve a comprehensive field program focused on infrastructure upgrades and confirming engineering data. NexGen signed an impact benefit agreement in June 2023 with the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan Northern Region 2 and the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan; it covers all phases of the Rook I project.

The Saskatchewan government approved the project’s environmental assessment, green lighting the development of Rook I. ‘NexGen is the first company in more than 20 years to receive full Provincial Environmental Assessment approval for a uranium project in Saskatchewan,’ states a press release.

In February 2024, NexGen launched a 30,000-meter drill program, half of which will focus on following up on its 2023 results at Rook 1.

4. Uranium Energy (NYSEAMERICAN:UEC)

Press ReleasesCompany Profile

Market cap: US$3.04 billion

Uranium Energy has two production-ready, in-situ recovery (ISR) hub-and-spoke platforms in South Texas and Wyoming that include fully licensed and operational processing capacity at the Hobson and Irigaray plants. The company also has a pipeline of seven US-based ISR uranium projects with all of their major permits in place.

Uranium Energy has made a number of strategic acquisitions in recent years, including UEX in August 2022 and the development-stage Roughrider uranium project in the Athabasca Basin from Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO,NYSE:RIO,LSE:RIO) in October 2022. Last August, Uranium Energy acquired a portfolio of uranium exploration projects in the region from Rio Tinto.

The company began purchasing physical uranium in March 2021, and since then it has amassed one of the largest inventories of US-warehoused physical uranium. In December 2022, Uranium Energy won an award from the US Department of Energy to supply 300,000 pounds of U3O8 at a price of US$59.50 per pound to the strategic uranium reserve.

In early 2024, Uranium Energy made made the decision to restart uranium production at its fully permitted Christensen Ranch ISR operations in Wyoming. First production is expected in August of this year.

5. Paladin Energy (ASX:PDN)

Company Profile

Market cap: AU$3.94 billion

Paladin Energy is the fifth largest uranium company by market cap on this list, but it’s also the largest ASX-listed uranium miner. The company owns 75 percent of the Langer Heinrich in Namibia, and holds an exploration portfolio that includes projects in both Canada and Australia.

Paladin paused operations at Langer Heinrich in 2018 in response to the low price environment for uranium, and in 2022 began the process of restarting operations at the mine. As of January 2024, the Langer Heinrich restart project was more than 93 percent complete and on track to relaunch commercial production by the end of the first quarter this year.

“After more than six years of care and maintenance it is exceptionally pleasing to see production activities recommence at the Langer Heinrich Mine, with first ore feed to the processing plant achieved in January,” said Paladin CEO Ian Purdy.

In addition, Paladin is progressing on its exploration program at its wholly owned Michelin project in Canada.

FAQs for uranium investing

What is uranium?

First discovered in 1789 by German chemist Martin Klaproth, uranium is a heavy metal that is as common in the Earth’s crust as tin, tungsten and molybdenum. Named after the planet Uranus, which was also discovered around the same time, uranium has been an important source of global energy for more than six decades.

What country has the most uranium?

Australia and Kazakhstan lead the world in both terms of uranium reserves and uranium production. Australia takes first prize for the world’s largest uranium reserves, representing 28 percent globally at 1,684,100 MT of U3O8. However, the Oceanic country ranks fourth in global uranium production, putting out 4,087 MT of U3O8 in 2022.

For its part, Kazakhstan controls 13 percent of global uranium reserves and leads the world in uranium production with 2022 output of 21,227 MT. Last year, Canada passed Namibia to become the second largest uranium producer, putting out 7,351 MT of U3O8 in 2022 compared to Namibia’s 5,613 MT. The countries hold 10 percent and 8 percent of global reserves respectively.

Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Pistilli, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

This post appeared first on investingnews.com

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