US uranium producers expand opportunities

14 March 2018

Anfield Energy Inc has agreed to acquire the Charlie in-situ leach (ISL) uranium project in Wyoming from Cotter Corp, as part of a strategy to create a mine and mill production complex in the state. Meanwhile, Energy Fuels Inc is pursuing opportunities to process new and additional alternate feed sources in order to allow the USA's only operating conventional uranium mill to extend its current operating campaign.

Vancouver-based Anfield will acquire the Charlie project, which has been in development since 1969 and sits immediately adjacent to two of Uranium One's producing mines, through an issuance of common shares equal to a 10% ownership interest in Anfield. Cotter will retain a 20% interest in all yellowcake production from the project. Anfield will have access to data from previous exploration activities at Charlie, which it said will allow for rapid preparation of technical reports on the project.

Historic estimates prepared in 1995 have suggested a "total geologic ore reserve" of 3.1-4.6 million pounds U3O8 (1192-1769 tU), but Anfield cautions such estimates are not consistent with Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM) requirements for the definition of a mineral reserve.

Anfield CEO Corey Dias said: "The Charlie project is one of the most advanced uranium properties in the United States and Anfield has a resin processing agreement in place with nearby Uranium One to produce up to 500,000 pounds of uranium per year at its existing processing facility. Moreover, in building a significant resource pipeline we are continuing to update and delineate uranium resources at the 24 Wyoming uranium projects acquired from Uranium One in 2016. These projects complement our conventional assets, including the Shootaring Canyon Mill, allowing us to bring projects on stream optimally according to market conditions and potential contracts," he said.

Anfield's Wyoming ISL mining projects are located in the Black Hills, Powder River Basin, Great Divide Basin, Laramie Basin, Shirley Basin and Wind River Basin areas. NI 43-101 resource reports have been completed for two projects, at Red Rim and Clarkson Hill.

Energy Fuels pursues feeds

Lakewood, Colorado-based Energy Fuels said it had last year become the USA's largest uranium producer in what president and CEO Mark Chalmers described as the culmination of a multi-year strategy.

"In order to remain strong in these challenging uranium markets, Energy Fuels continues to secure new sources of alternate feed materials and to pursue opportunities in the cleanup of abandoned uranium mines to feed the White Mesa Mill in 2018 and beyond," he said.

The White Mesa mill recovered about 1.312 million pounds U3O8 during 2017, primarily from alternate feed materials and from 'pond return' - dissolved uranium in the mill's tailings management system not recovered from previous processing activities. Of this, 366,000 pounds U3O8 were for the account of the company, with the remainder for third parties under various alternate feed toll processing and other arrangements. The company expects to recover about 320,000-360,000 pounds U3O8 at White Mesa for its own account this year, all of which is expected to be from alternate feed materials and pond return.

It is seeking new sources of revenue, including new sources of alternate feed materials and new fee processing opportunities at White Mesa that can be processed under existing market conditions, largely unrelated to uranium sales prices, as well as possibly recovering vanadium from existing pond solutions at mill. Such uranium sources include low-grade ore from third parties in connection with various uranium clean-up requirements and further recovery of pond return. Successful results from these activities would allow the mill to extend the 2018 campaign into 2019 and beyond, the company said.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, a significant portion of 2017's domestic uranium concentrate production of 2.44 million pounds U3O8 came from alternate sources such as conversion facilities and various clean-up sites.

Energy Fuels' ISL operations at Nichols Ranch in Wyoming produced 259,000 pounds U3O8 in 2017 and are expected to 140,000-160,000 pounds U3O8 in 2018. The company reported a gross profit of USD8.3 million from mining and milling operations, with net losses of USD27 million for the year.

The company said it intends to continue its support of action taken by itself and other US miners seeking relief from the US Department of Commerce concerning the effects of uranium imports on the country's domestic uranium industry. The petition, filed in January, is seeking an investigation into the effects of uranium imports on US national security, and calls for remedies including a quota to limit imports and requirements for federal utilities to buy US uranium.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News