Christensen Ranch project ready for restart

13 July 2023

US uranium mining company Uranium Energy Corp (UEC) announced its plan to accelerate the steps required for a resumption of operations has been completed, enabling a faster restart at the Christensen Ranch in-situ leach (ISL) project in Wyoming.

Christensen Ranch Mine Unit 10, showing wells and two module buildings (Image: UEC)

UEC acquired Uranium One Americas Inc (U1A) from Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom in December 2021. U1A's assets included the production-ready Christensen Ranch ISL project and associated orebodies, which together with the Irigaray central processing plant (CPP), form the Willow Creek uranium mine and have been under care-and-maintenance since 2018.

"The repatriation of the assets to US ownership has been a transformative acquisition for UEC, positioning the company as the largest, fully permitted, low-cost ISL project resource base of any US-based producer," UEC said.

Since its acquisition of the U1A assets, "key production infrastructure, including its wellfields and the satellite ion exchange plant, have been maintained, and now upgraded and refurbished to facilitate a fast restart", UEC said. "Uranium recovered from Christensen Ranch will be processed at UEC's Irigaray CPP."

The Irigaray CPP is the centerpiece of UEC's Wyoming hub-and-spoke project. The plant was originally constructed by Westinghouse and was later expanded by U1A in 2010, adding two resin elution circuits and additional precipitation capacity. The Irigaray CPP is one of the largest uranium CPPs in the USA, licensed for 2.5 million pounds of uranium production per year with pending plans to increase the licensed capacity to 4 million pounds per year.

The first project to feed the Irigaray CPP will be the Christensen Ranch project. UEC has been working steadily at Christensen Ranch since the beginning of this year to move out of care and maintenance and advance towards resuming production. The company has already conducted a series of operational tests in the mine units at the project.

UEC also announced the installation of a new wellfield at Christensen Ranch. The drilling and well installation programme for 180 recovery and injection wells is planned to commence in August this year. "Although not required for initial startup, these new wellfield modules will be installed and available for ramp up to meet production requirements," the company noted.

"With demand increasing for uranium supply from stable geopolitical jurisdictions and US national security objectives, we foresee an increasingly urgent need for domestic uranium supply," said UEC President and CEO Amir Adnani. "The fundamental drivers of supply and demand, including pending legislation to ban Russian uranium imports to the United States, are translating into rising uranium prices that have accelerated UEC's production readiness programme. In that regard, we have been working towards restarting production to fulfill the need for domestic uranium."

In April 2022, UEC disclosed mineral resources totalling over 69 million pounds U3O8 (26,541 tU) in the first technical filing for its Wyoming hub-and-spoke uranium ISL project. The project consists of the Irigaray, Christensen Ranch, Moore Ranch, Reno Creek, Ludeman, Allemand-Ross, Barge and the Jab/West Jab project areas. Total measured and indicated resources across all the assets total 61,956,200 pounds U3O8, with total inferred resources of 7,105,700 pounds U3O8.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News