Uranium Stocks: 5 Biggest Companies in 2023
Uranium is an important energy sector commodity, and its rising value has attracted investor interest.
2023 has already seen uranium prices push past the important US$50 per pound level, and experts are optimistic about the year ahead. With demand set to increase 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 May 11, 2023.
1. BHP (NYSE:BHP,ASX:BHP,LSE:BHP)
Market cap: US$222.7 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 2022 fiscal year, uranium output from the Olympic Dam totaled 2.4 million metric tons (MT) of uranium oxide concentrate, a decrease of 892,000 MT from the previous year’s uranium 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.
2. Cameco (NYSE:CCJ,TSX:CCO)
Market cap: US$16.16 billion
Cameco’s key operations include a 50 percent stake in Saskatchewan-based Cigar Lake, 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, both located in the province’s Athabasca Basin, which is a well-known uranium jurisdiction.
While Cameco is a well-known uranium producer, it has faced challenges in recent years. Like many companies, it took a hit during COVID-19, temporarily shutting down production at Cigar Lake in 2020.
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.
In early 2022, Cameco announced that improving uranium prices had encouraged management to bring the operation back online. The first pounds of uranium ore from the newly reopened McArthur River mine were milled and packaged at the Key Lake mill in November 2022. The company plans to produce 15 million pounds of uranium per year from these operations by 2024, which is 40 percent below its annual licensed capacity.
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 company recently inked a major contract with Ukraine which will see the mining giant supply uranium to the country’s nuclear industry through 2035.
3. NexGen Energy (NYSE:NXE,TSX:NXE,ASX:NXG)
Market cap: US$1.93 billion
Uranium exploration and development company NexGen Energy is focused on projects in Canada’s Athabasca Basin. Its main property is Rook I, which hosts a number of discoveries, including Arrow and South Arrow. NexGen also holds a 51 percent interest in exploration-stage company IsoEnergy (TSXV:ISO,OTCQX:ISENF).
In late 2021, NexGen inked an engineering, procurement and construction management contract for Rook I’s front-end engineering design stage. This work follows the completion of the feasibility study, and will further prepare the project for construction.
In December 2022, the company announced the receipt of federal technical and public review comments on its draft environmental impact statement (EIS) and said it would soon be submitting the final EIS and licensing application. “The Feasibility Study 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 project, which will involve a comprehensive field program focused on infrastructure upgrades and confirming engineering data.
4. Uranium Energy (NYSEAMERICAN:UEC)
Market cap: US$976.02 million
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 seven US-based ISR uranium projects with all of their major permits in place.
Uranium Energy made a number of strategic acquisitions in 2022, including UEX in August and the development-stage Roughrider uranium project from Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO,NYSE:RIO,LSE:RIO) in October.
The company began purchasing physical uranium in March 2021, and as of its latest purchase in April 2022, it had amassed an inventory of 5 million pounds 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.
5. Energy Fuels (NYSEAMERICAN:UUUU,TSX:EFR)
Market cap: US$933.95 million
The largest producer of uranium in the US, Energy Fuels provides major nuclear power plants with uranium from its White Mesa mill in Utah, the country’s only conventional uranium mill. The mill has a licensed capacity of over 8 million pounds of U3O8 per year.
Energy Fuels is the only uranium producer with both conventional and ISR production in the US. The company owns the Nichols Ranch ISR project in Wyoming and the Alta Mesa ISR project in Texas, both of which are currently on standby. The Nichols Ranch ISR project has a licensed capacity of 2 million pounds of U3O8 per year. Energy Fuels announced a definitive agreement to sell its Alta Mesa ISR project to enCore Energy (TSXV:EU,NYSEAMERICAN:EU) in November 2022.
Additionally, the company has one of the largest S-K 1300 and NI 43-101 compliant uranium resource portfolios in the country. This includes a pipeline of uranium and uranium-vanadium mining projects on standby and in various stages of permitting and development. In April 2022, Energy Fuels began partial commercial-scale rare earth elements separation at its White Mesa mill.
The US Department of Defense awarded Energy Fuels a strategic uranium reserve contract to sell US$18.5 million of uranium concentrates to the US government in December 2022.
FAQs for investing in uranium
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 1,692,700 MT of U3O8. However, the Oceanic island ranks fourth in global uranium production, putting out 4,192 MT of U3O8 in 2021.
For its part, Kazakhstan controls 15 percent of global uranium reserves and leads the world in uranium production with 2021 output of 21,819 MT. Namibia is the second largest uranium producer, putting out 5,753 MT of U3O8 in 2021; it represents 7 percent of worldwide uranium reserves.
Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Pistilli, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.