Imported uranium and low prices continued to plague the domestic uranium industry and, as a result, the Secretary of Energy declared the domestic industry to be nonviable for the second straight year. Uranium exploration expenditures in the United States declined for the eighth consecutive year. In 1986, an estimated $19 million was spent on uranium exploration, including 1.9 million ft of surface drilling. This drilling was done mainly in producing areas and in areas of recent discoveries.
Production of uranium concentrate increased in 1986, when 13.8 million lb of uranium oxide (U3O8) were produced, a 22% increase over 1985. Uranium produced as the result of solution mining and as the by-product of phosphoric acid production accounted for about 37% of the total production in the United States. At the end of 1986, only 6 uranium mills were operating in the United States.
Canada continued to dominate the world market. The development under way at the huge Olympic Dam deposit in Australia will increase that country’s production. United States uranium production is expected to show a small decrease in 1987.