Cameco began production at its new North Butte in situ uranium mine in Campbell County, Wyoming, on May 13. North Butte is a satellite facility to the company’s Smith Ranch-Highland in situ operations in Converse County, Wyoming. Uranium-bearing resin from North Butte is being transported to an existing central processing plant at Smith Ranch-Highland for production of uranium concentrate.
North Butte is expected to contribute about 300,000 lb (136,000 kg) of uranium concentrate in 2013 and ramp up to a targeted annual production rate of more than 700,000 lb/y by 2015.
Cameco operates Smith Ranch and Highland as a combined operation. Each has its own processing facility, but the Smith Ranch central plant currently processes all the uranium, and the Highland mill is idle. Together, they form the largest uranium production facility in the United States, with licensed production capacity of 5 million lb/y of U3O8. Production during 2012 totaled about 1.1 million lb (500,000 kg) of U3O8.
Smith Ranch has proven and probable reserves of 6.3 million lb (2.9 million kg) of U3O8 at an average grade of 0.09%. North Butte-Brown Ranch has proven and probable reserves of 3.3 million lb U3O8 at an average grade of 0.08%.
In addition to North Butte and Smith Ranch-Highland, Cameco owns the Crow Butte in situ uranium mine and central processing plant near Crawford, Nebraska. It has five other satellite sites in various stages of development and regulatory approval in Wyoming and Nebraska.