Uranium Ignites ‘Gold Rush’ in the West

Given its connotations, Pandora is an oddly inappropriate name for an uranium mine.

A 25 year drought in Uranium prices is finally coming to an end. In 2004 only 104 new claims were made for uranium development. This year, 2,700 new claims have been filed in just Colorado. Obviously there are some people excited about this, including hedge fund managers and claims filers hoping to get rich. And of course, there are those worried about the effects of a jump in uranium mining and production such as the Navajo Nation and other people in the area worried about the local environment and their health.

Globally, 180 million pounds of processed uranium are consumed each year by nuclear power plants. Production worldwide from mines amounts to only 100 million pounds. Roughly 75 million pounds come out of utility company stockpiles. What is actually traded in the spot market is only about 35 million

The revival of uranium mining in the West, though, has less to do with the renewed interest in nuclear power as an alternative to greenhouse-gas-belching coal plants than to the convoluted economics and intense speculation surrounding the metal that has pushed up the price of uranium to levels not seen since the heyday of the industry in the mid-1970s.

“There’s a lot of staking going on,” said Mike Shumway, a 53-year-old Vietnam veteran who owns the contracting business that is working the Pandora mine. “It’s like the gold rush.”

[NY Times]

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