Quiet quarter for US uranium production as momentum builds

22 May 2023

All the uranium produced in the USA during the first quarter of this year was from in-situ leach (ISL) operations, according to the latest US government update. But production from conventional mills as well as ISL looks set to ramp up over the coming months.

White Mesa is the only conventional uranium mill currently classed as "operating" by EIA (Image: Energy Fuels)

Total US production of uranium concentrates, at 2511 pounds U3O8 (0.97 tU), was 75% lower year-on-year and 99% down from fourth-quarter 2022 as no material was produced at Energy Fuels' White Mesa Mill, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in its quarterly report. All of the quarter's production came from just three ISL facilities in Wyoming: Nichols Ranch, Ross, and Smith Ranch-Highland.

White Mesa is the only conventional mill in the USA to be classed as "operating" by the EIA. EnergyFuels said in a US Securities and Exchange Commission filing earlier this month that during the first quarter of this year the mill in Utah has focused on rare-earth carbonate production. "During the three months ended March 31, 2023 the uranium recovered from processing monazite ore was retained in circuit and was not packaged as final U3O8 product," the company said.

Energy Fuels is working towards restarting ore production at four of its conventional uranium and uranium/vanadium mines, including the La Sal and Beaver mines at the La Sal Complex in Utah, the Whirlwind mine in Colorado and the Pinyon Plain mine in Arizona. The company's President and CEO Mark Chalmers said in its 9 May results announcement that the company could begin ore production "at one or more of these projects by 2024" but has sufficient uranium in inventory to fulfill its current utility contract requirements into 2025.

Meanwhile, enCore Energy Corp said on 18 May that upgrade and refurbishment work at its South Texas Alta Mesa central ISL plant is progressing ahead of schedule and under budget. In March, the company formally announced its decision to resume production next year at Alta Mesa, which has been on standby since 2013. In addition, the company said it has discovered a new mineralised zone at the Alta Mesa wellfield.

It also plans to restart production at its South Texas Rosita ISL plant later this year. Both Alta Mesa and Rosita are currently listed as on standby in the EIA report.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News