(Wyoming Business report, January 10) – Production should commence soon at Uranerz Energy Corporation’s Nichols Ranch in-situ uranium project.
The company has cleared most of its plate prior to entering production, including having all permits and approvals in place. Uranerz now just lacks a final pre-operational inspection with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission before it can begin uranium-recovery operations. The company announced yesterday the inspection should happen soon enough for the company to start operating sometime this quarter.
Leading up to the inspection, the company had to complete initial testing of a pair of deep-disposal wells used to eliminate non-hazardous liquids from the mining process. In-situ recovery uses groundwater to dissolve a certain type of uranium deposits underground before pumping them to the surface to remove from the water. A huge vat of tiny specialized resin beads strips the uranium from the water before the beads and water are separated and the water is cycled back underground to be re-enriched.
From there, the uranium is taken out of the resin and dried into yellowcake, or U3O8, the final output of in-situ recovery that is then shipped out of state for enrichment.
The Nichols Ranch wellfield and processing facilities are now “substantially completed,” with workers still tweaking the automated control systems. The company is not performing training for its fresh new staff prior to the start of production.
As of Sept. 30, 2013, expenditures on the facilities totaled about $43 million. It brought in a chief operating officer from a competing company that had let him go in December. Both Uranerz and another uranium upstart, Ur-Energy, received Industrial Development Revenue Bonds from the state of Wyoming to help finance their projects. They were only the third and fourth bonds to ever be issued by the state.