Uranium mill owner eyes startup by 2012

Energy Fuels Inc.‘s $150 million uranium mill could be operating in early 2012, perhaps as prices for uranium begin to rise again, Energy Fuels President George Glasier said Saturday.

“Uranium is back in favor,” Glasier told the Colorado Plateau Section of the Society of Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration Inc.

Energy Fuels’ Pi&#241on Ridge mill in the west end of Montrose County is being evaluated by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Energy Fuels also is looking to establish long-term contracts that will help it to establish the revenue stream needed to gain financing for the mill, Glasier said.

Energy Fuels has put $10 million into the project so far and has yet to turn dirt on the mill, which will be permitted at first to process 500 tons per day of ore. Eventually it will process 1,000 pounds per day, Glasier said.

Uranium now is about $40 per pound on the spot market, but it was $138 per pound a little more than two years ago, he said.

The relatively low price could change quickly, in 2013, when the United States no longer can use uranium taken from the former Soviet Union’s warheads to power the nuclear-generation stations in the U.S., Glasier said.

Largely as a result of using uranium from sources such as Russia, uranium production has fallen sharply in the United States, but it will go up when stockpiles no longer exist, Glasier said.

The Pi&#241on Ridge mill would be the nation’s second operating mill. The White Mesa mill near Blanding, Utah, is the nation’s only operating mill.

The economics of the Pi&#241on Ridge mill would be insulated to some degree from price volatility by milling vanadium as well as uranium, Glasier said.

Few domestic sources of uranium ore are accompanied by high levels of vanadium, which is used in a variety of industrial processes, including hardening steel. In any case, Glasier said, there is no shortage of uranium in what is known as the Uravan Mineral belt.

“It hasn’t been mined out by a long shot,” he said.

While China and other countries are working to obtain uranium for energy for their growing populations, “U.S. utilities are doing nothing” he said. “U.S. utilities had better wake up.”


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