Higher prices to come?
Ed Brezinski is vice president, corporate development, at Uranium Energy Corp., a uranium exploration and production company based in Corpus Christi, Texas.
One of the main features of the uranium market historically has been a fairly low price. Mining and extracting companies, processors and utility operators could build their business models with a reasonable degree of confidence that prices would be in the $20 to $40 range year in and year out. However, a quantum change in the uranium market has begun, and for the foreseeable future, the prospects of rising prices will affect market participants—some to a great degree, some only marginally.
As we all learned in Economics 101, price is a function of supply and demand. An examination of these two factors in the market for uranium illustrates that the price in coming years is quite likely to rise.
Looking at potential supply in the ground, uranium is considered ubiquitous. Scientific consensus puts its natural occurrence at about 2 to 4 parts per million, making it more common than tin or silver.1
The quality of the mines (i.e., grade) and the geological type of formation are more of an economic issue than anything else. At $10 a pound, there are fewer profitable, quality mines than there are when uranium is priced at $45 a pound. At the same time, discovery costs stand at $4 to $5 per pound, and they are rising because the easy uranium has been found already. This will weigh on supply.2