Uranium production has begun at North Butte, a satellite facility to Cameco's Smith Ranch-Highland in situ leach (ISL) uranium project in Wyoming, in a step described as a significant milestone for the company's US operations.
|Highland (Image: Cameco)
Operated by Cameco Resources, North Butte is expected to produce approximately 300,000 pounds U3O8 (115 tU) in 2013, ramping up to over 700,000 pounds (269 tU) per year by 2015. Uranium-bearing resin from North Butte will be processed to produce uranium concentrate at Smith Ranch-Highland's existing facilities. Smith Ranch-Highland produced 1.1 million pounds U3O8 (423 tU) in 2012.
According to Cameco's figures, North Butte has proven and probable economically mineable reserves of 3.3 million pounds U3O8 (1269 tU) at an average grade of 0.8%. Smith Ranch-Highland reserves total some 6.2 million pounds U3O8 (2385 tU).
Most of the uranium produced in the USA comes from ISL operations, where the ore is dissolved in the ground and pumped to the surface through wells before being processed to recover the uranium in similar processes to those used in conventional uranium mills. Uranium was produced using conventional methods at Highland from 1972 to 1984, but ISL methods have been in use at the project since 1988. Commercial ISL production began at Smith Ranch in 1997.
As well as the Wyoming project, Cameco's US interests also include the Crow Butte ISL project in Nebraska. The company has a further five satellite sites in various stages of development and permitteing in both states. Cameco Resources president Paul Goranson said the start-up of North Butte was a "significant milestone" for the growth of its US operations.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News