Wyoming uranium projects look to the future

15 January 2019

The Lost Creek in situ leach (ISL) uranium project has produced a cumulative 2.7 million pounds U3O8 (1039 tU) since beginning operations in 2013 and could ramp production up within six months, Ur-Energy said yesterday. Meanwhile, Uranium Energy Corp has announced a new consolidated mineral resource estimate for the Reno Creek project which it says makes it the largest permitted, pre-construction ISL uranium project in the USA.

Drilling at Lost Creek Mine Unit 1 (Image: Ur-Energy)

Lost Creek produced 286,400 pounds of dried and drummed U3O8 in 2018, Ur-Energy said in its quarterly operational results. It "stands ready" to increase production at Lost Creek and to begin development activities at Shirley Basin, should uranium pricing continue to improve, or after a "successful" outcome to the US Department of Commerce's (DOC) ongoing Section 232 investigation.

The company reduced production levels from 2016 in response to a "persistently weak" uranium market, but has remained operationally ready to increase production to pre‐2016 levels, or higher, when market conditions warrant the further development of the Lost Creel's fully‐permitted Mine Unit 2 (MU2).

"Lost Creek operations could increase production rates in as little as six months following a go decision simply by developing additional header houses within MU2," the company said, adding that no significant capital expenditure would be needed in order to increase production. "The Lost Creek plant has been very well maintained and is fully ready to receive additional flows for increased production when warranted," it said.

It is also continuing with permitting and licensing the Shirley Basin project and is working with the State of Wyoming to secure the licences and permits needed to begin staged construction and development of the project this year, with full operation as early as mid‐2020. Construction and development activities at Shirley Basin would follow the ramp-up of Lost Creek, it said.

The DOC launched its investigation into possible threats from uranium imports to national security in July last year, after Ur-Energy Inc and Energy Fuels Inc filed a petition that January calling for such an investigation under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. The petitioners called for a quota to limit imports of uranium into the USA, effectively reserving 25% of the US market for US uranium production, and also suggested that federal utilities and agencies be required to buy US uranium. A comment period on the investigation closed in September.

The DOC is expected to submit a report of findings and recommendations of any proposed remedy to the US president in the second half of 2019, after which the president will have up to 90 days to act on the report.

Resource update for Reno Creek

Uranium Energy Corp (UEC) said today that its newly released updated mineral resources for Reno Creek rank the project as the largest permitted, pre-construction ISL uranium project in the USA, with a measured and indicated mineral resource estimate of 26 million pounds U3O8 at an average grade of 0.041% U3O8. Inferred mineral resources are estimated at 1.49 million pounds U3O8 at 0.039%. The NI 43-101-compliant estimate consolidates for the first time major mineralised trends within the Eastern Pumpkin Buttes District of Wyoming's Powder River Basin.

UEC completed the acquisition of the North Reno Creek project in May last year, having previously acquired the fully permitted Reno Creek project in August 2017.

"For decades, the Reno Creek uranium district has been unable to reach its full potential due to fractured ownership," UEC President and CEO Amir Adnani said today. "Through a string of accretive acquisitions over the past 24 months, UEC has successfully consolidated the key project areas, clearing the path for this substantial new resource, with the benefit of being covered under our existing production permit."

Wyoming in September became a US Nuclear Regulatory Commission Agreement State, giving it the authority to regulate in situ recovery facilities in Wyoming. This will streamline the process to include the North Reno Creek resources under the existing Reno Creek permit, as UEC will now only be required to work with state regulators to secure the necessary permit revisions, the company said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News