Canada-based Uranium One has entered into a definitive agreement to buy the Malco joint venture from Areva and Electricité de France (EdF). Malco owns uranium resources and processing facilities in Wyoming, USA.
Uranium One said that it will pay $35 million in cash for Malco, which owns the licensed and permitted Irigaray in-situ recovery (ISR) central processing plant, the Christensen Ranch satellite ISR facility and associated uranium resources located in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming. The deal is expected to close during the first half of 2010, pending regulatory approvals.
The Irigaray and Christensen Ranch facilities are expected to form the basis of a new operating plan for Uranium One's projects in Wyoming. The company anticipates that its Moore Ranch project will now become a satellite ISR operation, with loaded resins being transported to Irigaray for further processing into dried U3O8. Uranium One's additional projects in the Powder River Basin - including Ludeman, Peterson, Allemand-Ross and Barge - could also be developed as satellite operations with final processing through Irigaray.
Jean Nortier, president and CEO of Uranium One, said the Irigaray and Christensen Ranch ISR facilities were an excellent complement its Wyoming uranium resource portfolio. "By acquiring existing, licensed production facilities, we will reduce the permitting and construction risk associated with developing our own central production plant."
Operations at Christensen Ranch began in 1989 and production continued until 2000. Including uranium recovered from restoration activities, a total of 4.7 million pounds U3O8 was produced at Christensen Ranch and Irigaray.
All major permits and licences are in place for the restart of operations at Christensen Ranch and Irigaray, Uranium One said. The Irigaray central processing plant is licensed to produce up to 2.5 million pounds of dried U3O8 annually. An application for a ten-year renewal of the licence was submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in early 2008.
Once the acquisition is completed, Uranium One intends to develop and mine the resources at Christensen Ranch and Irigaray, starting with the continued development of well fields at Christensen Ranch. Once in operation, uranium-laden resins from the Christensen satellite facility will be transported for final processing at the Irigaray central processing plant. Uranium One plans to expand the processing capacity at Irigaray to its licensed limit by incorporating a vacuum dryer that was purchased for use at Moore Ranch. The excess capacity at Irigaray can be used to process resins from other satellite operations in the Powder River Basin, including Moore Ranch and other Uranium One properties, the company said.
In Wyoming, Uranium One has plans to produce 900 tonnes of uranium per year from three mines in the Powder River Basin from 2009 (Moore Ranch, Peterson Ranch and Nine Mile) and 900 tonnes per year from Antelope in the Great Divide basin from 2010. It has some 4000 tonnes of uranium as measured resources and 23,000 tonnes as indicated resources in the state.
In August 2007, the company announced that it had arranged with Cameco's US subsidiary Power Resources for toll milling to recover uranium from its small Wyoming in-situ leach (ISL) mines, initially Moore Ranch in 2009.