Final permit for new US mine

26 October 2012

Uranerz is set to start production at its Nichols Ranch uranium mine in Wyoming next year after receiving the last remaining necessary permit from the state environmental regulator.

Liquid ISR waste

In-situ recovery (ISR) mines pass a leaching solution - such as oxygen with sodium carbonate - through buried sand containing uranium, dissolving it on the way. The solution is then pumped to the surface. The uranium is removed from the solution using an ion-exchange process and the barren solution is re-fortified with oxidant and complexing agent before being returned to the wellfield via the injection wells. However, a small flow (about 0.5%) is bled off and is treated as waste.

This waste water contains various dissolved ions from the orebody and is reinjected into approved disposal wells in a depleted portion of the orebody. This bleed of process solution ensures that there is a steady flow into the wellfield from the surrounding aquifer, and serves to restrict the flow of mining solutions away from the mining area.

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has issued Uranerz with a permit to drill deep disposal wells at the Nichols Ranch in-situ recovery (ISR) mine in Wyoming's Powder River Basin. This, the company said, was the last permit required to begin operations and commercial uranium production at the mine.

Uranerz president and CEO Glenn Catchpole commented: "With this final permit in hand, Uranerz will focus on installing two deep disposal wells this winter while completing the remaining construction activities. We are all very excited at the prospect of becoming America's next ISR uranium producer in 2013."

The Nichols Ranch project is licensed for a production level of up to 770 tonnes of uranium (tU) per year, with initial annual production targeted for 230 tU to 310 tU after ramp-up. On-site construction work begun at the mine in August. According to Uranerz, it will be the first new uranium mine built in Wyoming since 1996.

Uranerz said that Nichols Ranch will "serve as a platform to develop the company's other Powder River Basin properties with enhanced economics for adjacent and satellite projects." It has NI 43-101 compliant resources of 6060 tonnes of uranium at grades of 0.1% uranium in seven deposits within about 30 kilometres of Nichols Ranch.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News