Energy Fuels poised to grow, responds to EPA, & makes donation
by David Boyle
Current events domestically and internationally could be good news for Energy Fuels and the White Mesa Mill. The company is filling a tailings cell after going back and forth with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is set to make its first donation through its newly formed San Juan County Clean Energy Foundation.
Energy Fuels filed 2Q results for 2022 with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on August 5. Energy Fuels reported a net loss of $18.1 million including a market decrease in the value of investments at around $13.4 million. Still, the company reports a balance sheet with $134.1 million of working capital with no short-term or long-term debt.
Energy Fuels reports entering into three long-term contracts to provide Uranium to US utilities. This trend they believe will continue as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may entice companies to enter into more long-term contracts with non-Russian producers of uranium.
Energy Fuels is also looking to sell some of its inventory to the United States Department of Energy (DOE). The company submitted a bid to the DOE following a June request for proposal. The DOE states they expect to purchase up to 1 million pounds of uranium from up to four qualified uranium producers.
If Uranium prices remain high the company could reopen mining facilities, Energy Fuels reports they are beginning the work to start up production at their mine facilities which could begin as soon as 2023.
The company is also hopeful about its position in the Rare Earth Element market. Rare Earth Elements are used in smartphones, computers, and electric vehicles.
US Congress recently passed the Inflation Reduction Act, including a provision to address climate change in part by promoting electric vehicles.
Over 80 percent of Rare Earth Elements come from China, a push for a domestic supply of rare earth elements could also boost production at the White Mesa Mill.
Energy Fuels also recently received an update from the EPA following a December 2021 ruling that halted receipt of superfund waste at the mill. The ruling will allow the company to once again receive waste from superfund sites.
The halt of receipt of off-site waste from Superfund sites was a result of a lack of liquid cover at the mill’s tailings Cell 4B, a violation of the Clean Air Act as Radon emitted from the cell.
The EPA ruling came as a surprise to Energy Fuels. The company says during a 2019 visit, the EPA performed tests in the ponds and determined exposed evaporative crystals in tailings Cell 4B did not need to be covered due to no significant emission of Radon.
In March, 2022 the EPA said they did share imprecise language in their 2019 communications clarifying that
“This interpretation was intended only to address the formation of the material on the steeply sloped sides of the impoundment.”
The March letter did confirm their finding of a violation for uncovered materials in other parts of the cell but also removed the term “egregious” from the violation.
After going back and forth in communication regarding the violation Energy Fuels’ latest letter, received July 18, will allow the mill to again accept superfund waste, although the mill cannot store waste in Cell 4B until it returns to compliance.
Energy Fuels officials report they are in the process of refilling Cell 4B although they say the process will take months as they pump water from their well amidst the drought in the area.
The company’s newly formed San Juan County Clean Energy Foundation is set to make its first donation.
In September 2021 the company deposited $1 million into the San Juan County Clean Energy Foundation. At the same time, the company announced plans to contribute ongoing annual funding to the foundation, equal to one percent of future mill revenues.
The company is still forming its community-based advisory board to help determine how to best allocate funds. In the meantime, the organization is set to make a donation to the American Indian Services (AIS) organization.
The AIS PREP summer program works with middle-school-aged Indigenous students to explore STEM-related fields. Over 90 students participated in the free educational program which concluded with a closing celebration on August 5.
AIS will be the first recipient of the San Juan County Clean Energy Foundation.
Energy Fuels says the foundation will focus on supporting education, the environment, health/wellness, and economic advancement in the City of Blanding, San Juan County, the White Mesa Ute Community, the Navajo Nation, and other area communities.