Uranium mining in Canada

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For many years, North America was the largest exporter of uranium ore in the world and has been a major world producer since demand for uranium developed. In 2009 Kazakhstan took over top spot, relegating Canada to second.[1] 20% of the world's primary uranium production came from mines in Canada in 2009.[2] 14.5% of the world production came from one mine, McArthur River.[1] Currently the only producing area in Canada is northern Saskatchewan, although other areas have had active mines in the past.[3]


Canada's first recorded discovery of uranium came in the 1930s[clarification needed] 3[clarification needed][4][5] when prospector Gilbert LaBine discovered pitchblende, a major uranium bearing mineral, on the shores of the Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories. This discovery led Labine's company, Eldorado Gold Mines Limited, to develop the Eldorado Mine at Port Radium, Northwest Territories in 1932 and a refinery to extract Radium from the ore in Port Hope, Ontario, the following year.[3][6]

During World War II, the demand for uranium exploded as the United States and their allies, Britain and Canada, began the Manhattan Project to produce the first atomic weapons. As a result, in 1943 the Government of Canada expropriated the assets of Eldorado and formed a federal crown corporation, Eldorado Mining and Refining Limited, to oversee Canadian uranium assets. Exploration for uranium was restricted to Eldorado and the Geological Survey of Canada.[3][4][6]

The ban on private prospecting was lifted in 1947.[6][7] This led to an exploration boom that quickly resulted in the discovery of mines in the Northwest Territories (Rayrock), Ontario (Bancroft and Elliot Lake), and Saskatchewan (Uranium City). By 1956, thousands of radioactive occurrences had been noted and by 1959, 23 mines were in operation in five districts.[3][4][6] In 1959, Canadian uranium exports were valued at $330 million, more than for any other mineral exported from Canada that year.[6][7] In the early 1960s, military demand for uranium declined and in 1965 Canada imposed a policy of only selling uranium for peaceful purposes.[3] This period marked the end of the first uranium boom and saw the number of operating mines drop to four. To assist the domestic uranium industry, the federal government initiated a stockpiling program to purchase uranium. This program ended in 1974 when demand for uranium for power generation was sufficient to support the industry.[3][6]

Uranium mining by province[edit]

Nova Scotia[edit]

A moratorium on uranium exploration was declared in the province of Nova Scotia in 1984. This moratorium expired on January 1, 1995.[4] However, Nova Scotia has since enacted legislation making uranium exploration and mining illegal.


On March 28, 2013, Quebec became the third province in Canada to impose a moratorium on Uranium development. This ban appears to be temporary.[8][9]


Major uranium mines and deposits in Ontario

Red pog.svg Active mine
Green pog.svg Deposit/possible future minesite
Orange pog.svg Closed mines/plants

Crosshair.png City/town
  • Past producers
Elliot Lake
Agnew Lake


Major uranium mines and deposits in Saskatchewan

Red pog.svg Active mine
Green pog.svg Deposit/possible future minesite
Orange pog.svg Closed mines/plants

Crosshair.png City/town
  • Past producers
Beaverlodge district
  • Current Mines

British Columbia[edit]

In 1980 the province of British Columbia introduced a seven-year ban on uranium mining and exploration, which was not renewed.[4] In 2008, the government established a "no registration reserve" under the Mineral Tenure Act for uranium and thorium. This excludes uranium and thorium from any mineral licences in the province. The government has also stated that they will "ensure that all uranium deposits will remain undeveloped".[10]

Northwest Territories[edit]

Opposition to uranium mining[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Uranium in Canada". World Nuclear Association. Retrieved 2010-08-17.
  2. ^ "World Uranium Mining". World Nuclear Association. Retrieved 2010-08-17.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "History of Uranium Mining in Canada". Canadian Nuclear Association. Archived from the original on 2012-02-16. Retrieved 2010-08-31.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Uranium Mining in Canada – Past and Present" (PDF). MiningWatch Canada. Retrieved 2010-08-31.
  5. ^ "Historical Timeline of the Northwest Territories: 1930 Eldorado Mine". Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. Retrieved 2010-09-03.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Brief History of Uranium Mining in Canada". World Nuclear Association. Retrieved 2010-08-31.
  7. ^ a b "Uranium in Canada". World Nuclear Association. August 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-04.
  8. ^ "Quebec imposes moratorium on uranium exploration and mining". Mining Weekly. 2013-03-28. Retrieved 2014-06-13.
  9. ^ "Quebec becomes third province to impose uranium moratorium". Mining.com. 2013-04-04. Retrieved 2014-06-13.
  10. ^ "Government Confirms Position on Uranium Development". Government of British Columbia. 2008-04-24. Retrieved 2010-09-04.

External links[edit]