The USA produced 33% less uranium in 2018 than 2017, according to the US Energy Information Administration's (EIA) 2018 Domestic Uranium Production Report. Meanwhile, Uranium One has published NI 43-101 technical reports including resource figures for five uranium exploration and development properties in Wyoming.(Image: EIA)
A total of 1.6 million pounds U3O8 (615 tU) was produced from seven facilities, according to the report which was published on 16 May. These were the White Mesa uranium mill in Utah, plus six in-situ leach operations: Crow Butte in Nebraska, and Lost Creek, Nichols Ranch, Ross, Smith Ranch-Highland and Willow Creek, all in Wyoming. Ross is part of the Lance project. Total mine production, at 0.7 million pounds, was 37% less than the previous year. Total production reflects the amount of ore fed to mills in the year, including stockpiled ore mined in previous years, and is therefore higher than mine production.
The 1.6 million pounds of uranium concentrates shipped from those operations was 35% less than in 2017. US producers sold a total of 1.5 million pounds U3O8 at a weighted average price of USD32.51 per pound.
EIA data released earlier this month for the first quarter of 2019 reflect that two of those ISL operations - Crow Butte and Willow Creek - are not currently operating.
Two mills - Shootaring Canyon in Utah and Sweetwater Uranium Project in Wyoming - and four ISL plants were on standby in 2018, according to the report. Total expenditures for land, exploration, drilling, production and reclamation, at USD109 million, were 11% less than in 2017 and the lowest total since 2004. Total employment in the US uranium production industry, at 372 full-time person-years in 2018, was 12% less than in 2017 and the lowest since 2003.
Reported estimated uranium reserves at the end of 2018 were 43 million pounds U3O8 at a maximum forward cost of up to USD30 per pound; 174 million pounds U3O8 at up to USD50 per pound and 353 million pounds U3O8 at up to USD100 per pound. "These reserves are a fraction of likely total domestic uranium reserves because we did not include inferred resources that were not reported because of a lack of cost estimates or because the reserves were not located on actively-managed properties," the report notes.
Uranium One updates resources
Uranium One, operator of the Willow Creek ISL mine, has released updated NI 43-101 technical reports for five of its development and exploration projects in Wyoming's Powder River Basin: Allemand-Ross, Barge, JAB-West Jab, Ludeman and Moore Ranch.
Estimated resources for Allemand-Ross total 2.955 million pounds U3O8, of which 459,400 million pounds are measured and indicated resources with an average grade of 0.083% U3O8 and 2.496 million pounds are inferred resources averaging 0.098%. For Barge, a resource estimate of 4.361 million pounds of indicated resources at an average 0.051% is reported. For JAB-West JAB, measured and indicated resources are 4.404 million pounds at an average 0.067% U3O8, with inferred resources of 338,000 pounds at 0.054%. Ludeman has measured and indicated resources of 9.7 million pounds - 5 million pounds of measured resources at an average grade of 0.094% and 4.7 million pounds of indicated resources at 0.088% - plus inferred resources of 1.258 million pounds at an average grade of 0.073%. Moore Ranch has 3.210 million pounds U3O8 of measured and indicated resources at an average 0.06%, with inferred resources of 43,700 pounds at an average 0.047% U3O8.
The Toronto-based company, which is owned by Russia's ARMZ, placed its Willow Creek operation on standby during 2018 and in February applied to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality for a ruling which would allow it to place the operation under care and maintenance for a period of up to five years.
US uranium producers are currently awaiting a presidential decision on the outcome of an investigation by the Department of Commerce into the effects of uranium imports on national security. The investigation, under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, was triggered by the filing in January 2018 of a petition by uranium mining companies Energy Fuels Inc and Ur-Energy, in which they sought a quota to limit imports of uranium into the USA. This would effectively reserve a portion of the market for domestic production. The presidential decision must be made by 15 July, at the latest.