|The Nichols Ranch uranium in situ recovery (ISR) project in Wyoming is Uranerz Energy’s first uranium mine, and the newest operation of its kind in the U.S. (Photo courtesy of Uranerz Energy)|
Uranerz Energy has started uranium mining operations at its wholly-owned Nichols Ranch in-situ recovery project in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, after receiving final clearance from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Nichols Ranch project is licensed to produce 2 million lb/y of uranium yellowcake and has an initial targeted production rate of 600,000 to 800,000 lb/y.
Construction and commissioning of the Nichols Ranch recovery plant and initial wellfield is complete. Mining operations are based on circulation of groundwater fortified with oxygen, sodium bicarbonate, and carbon dioxide through the sandstone-hosted uranium deposit by means of injection and recovery wells.
Uranium is extracted from recovered solution using ion-exchange technology. The uranium-loaded resin from the ion-exchange vessels will be transported to Cameco Resources’ Smith Ranch uranium processing facilities in Wyoming for final processing into dried and drummed uranium concentrates pursuant to a toll processing agreement between the two companies.
Uranerz will arrange for shipments of its uranium from Smith Ranch to a conversion facility, where ownership will be transferred to its nuclear utility customers. The company has three uranium off-take agreements with two major U.S. nuclear operators, including Exelon.
The Nichols Ranch project is the Uranerz’ first uranium mine. “The start of mining operations represents a major milestone for our company that was attained through the hard work and determination of Uranerz’ highly motivated employees,” said Uranerz CEO Glenn Catchpole. “This is an exciting time for our entire team as Nichols Ranch becomes the newest uranium mine in North America.”