Our exploration program is directed at replacing mineral reserves as they are depleted by our production, and is key to sustaining our business. However, during this period of weak uranium prices, and as we have ample idled production capacity, we have reduced our spending to focus only on exploration near our existing operations where we have established infrastructure and capacity to expand.
Globally, we have land with exploration and development prospects that are among the best in the world, mainly in Canada, Australia, and the US. Our land holdings total about 0.8 million hectares (2 million acres). In northern Saskatchewan alone, we have direct interests in about 0.7 million hectares (1.8 million acres) of land covering many of the most prospective exploration areas of the Athabasca Basin.
Brownfield exploration is uranium exploration near our existing operations and includes expenses for advanced exploration on the evaluation of projects where uranium mineralization is being defined.
In 2020, we spent about $4 million on brownfields and advanced uranium projects in Saskatchewan and Australia. At the US operations we spent $1 million.
We spent about $8 million on regional exploration programs (including support costs), primarily in Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin.
Planning for the future
We will continue to focus on our core projects in Saskatchewan under our long-term exploration strategy. Long-term, we look for properties that meet our investment criteria. We may partner with other companies through strategic alliances, equity holdings and traditional joint venture arrangements. Our leadership position and industry expertise in both exploration and corporate social responsibility make us a partner of choice.
Currently, given the conditions in the uranium market, our extensive portfolio of reserves and resources and our belief that we have ample idle production capacity, our focus is on navigating by our investment-grade rating and preserving the value of our tier-one assets. We expect that these assets will allow us to meet rising uranium demand with increased production from our best margin operations and will help to mitigate risk in the event of prolonged uncertainty.
However, we continually evaluate investment opportunities within the nuclear fuel cycle that could add to our future supply options, support our sales activities, and complement and enhance our business in the nuclear industry. We will make an investment decision when an opportunity is available at the right time and the right price. We strive to pursue corporate development initiatives that will leave us and our shareholders in a fundamentally stronger position. As such, an investment opportunity is never assessed in isolation. Investments must compete for investment capital with our own internal growth opportunities. They are subject to our capital allocation process described in the strategy section of our 2020 Q4 MD&A, starting on page 17.
Caution about Forward-Looking Information
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