(World Nuclear News, February 25) – Nineteen new wells have been added to Uranerz’s Nichols Ranch in situ leach uranium project and work is under way to develop a fifth header house and associated wellfield at the Wyoming site.
The 19 new injection and recovery wells at the number 4 header house are already in service, and construction of a fifth header house is due to start next week, the company has announced. Well installation for the new header house’s wellfield is already under way. The 90 wells are expected to come online during the second quarter of 2015, and Uranerz expects to add a sixth header house by the end of the year.
ISL uranium mining involves dissolving the uranium underground using a series of injection and recovery wells to circulate a water-based leaching solution – in the case of Nichols Ranch, groundwater fortified with oxygen, sodium bicarbonate and carbon dioxide. Groups of wells are connected via buried pipelines to a header house, from where larger trunk lines carry the dissolved uranium to the central processing plant where it is loaded onto ion exchange resins. The loaded resins from Nichols Ranch are then shipped by road for further treatment at Cameco’s Smith Ranch under a toll processing agreement.
Mining operations began at Nichols Ranch in April 2014. It shipped its first resin to Cameco in June and the first delivery of the recovered uranium oxide was made in September. By the end of the year the project had four header houses in operation, each associated with 60-90 wells.
Nichols Ranch is licensed to produce up to 770 tonnes of uranium per year, and it is ramping up to an annual production targeted at 230 tU to 310 tU. Uranerz CEO Glen Catchpole said the company was keen to expand the wellfields at Nichols Ranch, noting that the expansion could both increase near-term production and to allow for future scalability. The company’s Jane Dough and Hank uranium deposits are contiguous with Nichols Ranch.
A merger of Uranerz and Energy Fuels Inc announced in January will see Energy Fuels acquire all of Uranerz, bringing together Uranerz’s operations and Energy Fuels’s conventional uranium mining and milling activities.