Vanadium prices have risen by more than 400 percent over the past two years to about $15 per pound. Based on extensive test work and laboratory analysis, the Company has identified significant concentrations of dissolved vanadium in pond solutions at the mill. Based on current estimates, Energy Fuels believes these pond solutions, the result of previous milling operations, may contain more than four million pounds of recoverable vanadium.
The White Mesa Mill has a long history of conventional vanadium recovery, most recently producing 1.5 million pounds of vanadium in 2013. During its 38-year operating history, the mill has produced over 45 million pounds of vanadium.
The Mill is the only operating conventional uranium recovery facility in the United States, and, at the present time, is the only operating facility in the United States with the near-term ability to resume vanadium recovery.
Energy Fuels has also recovered uranium from the same ponds – 308,000 pounds in 2017 and an estimated 200,000 pounds in 2018.
Energy Fuels estimates that it could recover up to 500,000 pounds of vanadium in 2018. They will evaluate actual 2018 costs and recoveries, and given favorable results, would expect to continue vanadium production from pond returns in 2019 and 2020.
Mark S. Chalmers, President and CEO of Energy Fuels, said, “Energy Fuels’ White Mesa Mill has historically been a significant producer of vanadium. Due to recent vanadium price strength and bullish market sentiment, we are evaluating a number of opportunities to resume vanadium recovery. If this campaign is successful, Energy Fuels would expect to become a commercial scale vanadium producer for the next few years, just from pond solutions.
“For longer term alternatives, we are evaluating other opportunities, including processing previously mined uranium/vanadium stockpiles at the mill, processing other vanadium-bearing streams, and, with improved uranium prices, the re-initiation of conventional uranium/vanadium mine production from our mines that contain large, high-grade vanadium resources, including the La Sal and Whirlwind mines which are currently on standby.”
In an attempt to strengthen the domestic uranium industry, Energy Fuels and Ur-Energy recently filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Commerce seeking an investigation into the impact of uranium imports on national security.
In a statement that accompanied the petition, Energy Fuels writes, “According to a report released on May 9 by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. uranium production has fallen to its lowest level since the late 1940s. The EIA report reflects the harsh reality facing the domestic uranium mining industry.
“Our companies, Ur-Energy and Energy Fuels, have been sounding the alarm about the threats that brought us here. Chief among those threats are state-owned enterprises from Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and increasingly China, that flood the U.S. with cheap uranium and nuclear fuel.
“We rely on uranium to fuel the nuclear power plants that provide 20 percent of our electricity and nearly 60 percent of our zero-carbon electricity.
“After years of market penetration, much of the uranium and nuclear fuel used in our country is now imported from Russia and other countries that share neither our environmental or worker safety standards, nor our competitive market principles.
“Adding further urgency to the threat, an April 13 Platts article describes how Russia uses geopolitical brinksmanship to exert pressure on U.S. energy infrastructure.
“With U.S. uranium production falling to all-time lows and geopolitical tensions with Russia, the government must act now to protect our energy and national security.”
Mark Chalmers added, “If the uranium Section 232 Petition we recently filed with the U.S. Department of Commerce is successful, we would expect improvements in uranium prices, which could potentially allow these mines – and others in the region – to resume commercial uranium and vanadium production.”