Wyoming uranium project clears final hurdle

09 October 2012

Wyoming's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has released its record of decision on the proposed Lost Creek uranium project. The decision is open to appeal, but represents the final regulatory approval needed for Ur-Energy to begin construction and operations.

Lost Creek (Wyoming BLM)_200
ISL means reduced environmental impacts at Lost Creek (Image: Wyoming BLM)

The BLM's record of decision authorizes Ur-Energy's planned operations to recover uranium by in-situ leach (ISL), which involves pumping an oxidizing solution into a borehole to dissolve the uranium. The dissolved mineral is then pumped to the surface for processing. This method, notes the BLM, has "significantly less" environmental impact than open pit mining: only about 8% of the project site's surface area will be disturbed, with most of the disturbance related to the construction of the well fields.

The plan includes wellhead houses, a central processing facility, an access road network and pipeline system plus the well pads for injection, production and monitoring. Yellowcake produced from processing the leached uranium will be dried on site in a facility within the processing plant. This, says the BLM, will reduce the number of shipments from the site which will also further reduce environmental impacts.

Although the BLM decision is formally open to appeal for 30 days from 5 October, Ur-Energy plans to start facility construction at Lost Creek this month. The company plans to invest $30-40 million in the project over the next 6-9 months and anticipates it will produce its first uranium early in the summer of 2013. With measured and indicated resources of some 3200 tU and inferred resources of 1100 tU, Ur-Energy currently expects the project to produce over 7 million pounds of yellowcake (2690 tU) at a rate of one million pounds (385 tU) per year.

The Lost Creek project received a licence from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in August 2011 and a mining permit from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ) in October that year. Ur-Energy has also received the necessary permits and aquifer exemptions to install and operate water disposal wells and to conduct injection activities in the production well fields from the WDEQ and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Chairman Jeff Klenda said the coming months would be "very exciting" for Ur-Energy as it transitioned from exploration and development to a "viable" uranium production company. The company's president and CEO Wayne Heili praised the thoroughness of the regulatory agencies throughout the permitting process, and noted that the review process has already included multiple opportunities for public input. "The efforts of the involved agency staffs have produced a foundation of permits and licences on which we can build a model uranium recovery operation for the future of the company," he said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News