URANIUM ONE ASKS FOR ADDITIONAL EXTENSION
OF THE SHOOTARING CANYON LICENSE
After the plan to sell the Shootaring Canyon Uranium Mill to Black Range Minerals Ltd. fell through, Uranium One has requested a 6-month extension of their license, which expires April 30, 2014. The Utah Division of Radiation Control (DRC) granted a 2-year extension in 2012 so that Uranium One could divest itself of the Mill. Uranium One wants additional time to find another buyer of the Mill.
The Mill has been on “standby” since 1982, when it operated for only a few months. The Mill has a stockpile of about 94,000 tons of unprocessed uranium ore, a partially reclaimed tailings impoundment, and waste from the 1980s cleanup of the Hanksville ore-buying station and the Hydro-Jet mill.
• Uranium One Letter to DRC - March 28, 2014
• Uranium Watch News Release - March 19, 2014
GRAND CANYON TRUST SUES ENERGY FUELS RESOURCES
OVER RADON EMISSION COMPLIANCE
The Grand Canyon Trust has sued Energy Fuels Resources Inc. over the company's failure to comply with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations that apply to the radon emissions from uranium mill tailings. The suit addresses tailings impoundments at the White Mesa Uranium Mill in San Juan County, where Energy Fuels processes uranium ore and uranium-bearing waste from other mineral processing operations (known as "alternate feed"). The EPA regulations, which are administered and enforced by the Utah Division of Air Quality, allow only two operating tailings disposal cells at any one time. The Mill has three lined impoundments that receive liquid effluents (Cell 1, Cell 4B, and Robert Pond), one that receives tailings slurry (Cell 4A), and two that may or may not be considered operational (Cells 2 and 3).
In 2012 the emissions from Cell 2 exceeded the standard for radon emissions. Energy Fuels was required to monitor and report the emissions on a monthly basis and take action to reduce the emissions. The increase in the emissions was caused by the dewatering of Cell 2 to reduce the potential of contamination of the groundwater from the tailings. Energy Fuels placed additional soils on top of the impoundment and removed windblown tailings that had come from Cell 3. The Mill license in supposed to include enforceable reclamation milestones for the closure of Cell 2, but does not.
For several years, Uranium Watch has brought issues related to Mill's compliance with the EPA regulations (40 C.F.R. Part 61 Subpart W).
The EPA is in the process of amending their Subpart W regulations. A proposed rule is due out for public comment in April or May of this year.
• Grand Canyon Trust News Release - April 3, 2014
• Grand Canyon Trust: White Mesa Complaint - April 2, 2014
• EPA Subpart W Rulemaking Webpage
ANFIELD RESOURCES INC. OBTAINS URANIUM
PROPERTIES IN SE UTAH
Anfield Resources Inc. has obtained uranium properties and leases in Southeast Utah. The Canadian company has received nine mineral leases from the Utah State Institutional and Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) for about 5,500 acres in the Montezuma Canyon, Henry Mountains, and Green River Mining District areas. In addition, the company has filed claims in the La Sal, Utah, area at the former Firefly Mine Complex: Firefly, Grey Dawn, and Little Peter Mines. Apparently, those mines produced ore during the early years, from about 1948 to 1958. The mines would be considered abandoned uranium mines that produced ore for the US. atomic weapons program. They should be included in under the Department of Energy Abandoned Uranium Mine Report to Congress.
Anfield anticipates shipping ore to the White Mesa Mill. None of the uranium mines or lease areas are currently permitted for uranium mining. Energy Fuels Resources Inc. intends to suspend the processing ore at the White Mesa Mill this August. It appears that these acqusitions are speculative.
• Anfield Resources News Release - December 10, 2013
• Anfield Resources News Release - March 18, 2014
DOE ISSUES PROGRAMMATIC EIS FOR
URANIUM LEASING PROGRAM IN COLORADO
The U.S. Department of Energy has released the Uranium Leasing Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (ULP PEIS). The PEIS and pertinent documents can be viewed on-line and downloaded. There is a form to fill out to order a disc and/or paper copy of the document.
The DOE's Office of Legacy Management approved the continued leasing of federal lands for uranium mining on approzximately 25,000 acres in Mesa, Montrose and San Miguel Counties in Western Colorado. All but two tracts have been leased. The DOE received numerous oral and written Comments on the Draft ULP PEIS. continued leasing of these lands has been opposed by a number of organizations, Indlucing the San Miguel County Board of County Commissioners, Information Network for Responsible Mining (INFORM), Uranium Watch and Living Rivers, and Colorado Western Congress.
The DOE must issue the Record of Decision before the leasing program moves forward.
BLACK RANGE MINERALS
WILL NOT PURCHASE
SHOOTARING CANYON MILL
Black Range Minerals Ltd. announced they have abandoned their plans to purchase the old Shootaring Canyon Uranium Mill near Ticaboo, Utah, 14 miles north of Lake Powell. The Mill has been on “standby” since 1982, when it operated for only a few months. The Mill has a stockpile of about 94,000 tons of unprocessed uranium ore, a partially reclaimed tailings impoundment, and waste from the 1980s cleanup of the Hanksville ore-buying station and the Hydro-Jet mill.
Black Range, an Austrialian company, had an agreement to purchase the Mill and other uranium assets from Uranium One Inc., a Canadian company. On March 17 Black Range stated that its agreement with Uranium One had lapsed, and the two companies had not been able to agree on acceptable terms to extend the deadline of the agreement, which expired on March 14. Black Range and Uranium One needed to extend the agreement, because it would take additional time for the Utah Division of Radiation Control (DRC) to approve the transfer of the Mill License and to extend the expiration date of the License beyond April 30, 2014.
Uranium One had been granted a 2-year extension to the Mill’s License by the DRC so they could find a buyer for the Mill. The extension agreement stated that, if Uranium One still owned the Shootaring Canyon Mill at the end of this two year extension, Uranium One would submit a license renewal application or a decommissioning plan 30 days prior of the expiration date. Uranium One submitted an updated Reclamation Plan in 2012. Uranium One has until March 31 to make a decision on whether to submit a renewal application or go forward with decommissioning and reclamation of the site.
With the continued low price of uranium and the millions of dollars needed to re-license the Mill, re-furbishing the Mill, construct a new tailings impoundment, and permit and develop uranium mines to supply the Mill with ore, the economic feasibility of a new uranium mine and mill operation on the Colorado Plateau is doubtful. Due to the low uranium prices, the uranium industry in the region is near a standstill, with no indication of when the current uranium “bust’ will again turn into a “boom.” The Energy Fuels Resources Inc.’s White Mesa Mill near Blanding and their uranium mine operations in Utah and Arizona will all be on standby as of this summer.
The question is what is the next step for the Shootaring Mill. Decommissioning and reclamation of the Shootaring Canyon Mill is long over-due. Decisions regarding the final disposal of the 24,000 cubic yards of tailings, the stockpiled ore, and other wastes have not been made. The DRC asked Uranium One to itemized cost estimate of decommissioning the Shootaring Canyon Mill facility for unrestricted release. The DRC asked for an estimation of the costs to send all tailings, contaminated soil, and contaminated equipment to the White Mesa Mill facility and/or the EnergySolutions’ 11e.(2) byproduct material disposal site at Clive, Utah. The DRC also asked for information on the sale of the ore to the White Mesa Mill. The DRC is considering whether having another uranium processing site in Utah that must remain under government control in perpetuity is in the public interest.
MORE DOCUMENTS REGARDING SHOOTARING
CANYON MILL OWNERSHIP CHANGE AVAILABLE
Black Range Minerals Ltd., an Australian Company, has requested that the Utah Division of Radiation Control (DRC) transfer the control and ownership of the Shootaring Canyon Uranium Mill License from Uranium One to Black Range Mineral Utah LLC (BRM). BRM is in the process of purchasing the Mill, near Ticaboo and Lake Powell, from Uranium One. The Mill has not operated since 1982. BRM has also asked the DRC to extend the date of the license expiration for an additional 3 years.
The DRC has stated that they will only extend the license until January 1, 2015. That means that BRM would have to submit a license renewal application before that date. In addition to the request for a license amendment, the documents include supplementary information from BRM, a DRC request for additional information, summary of a January 30 meeting, and e-mail communications.
The DRC informed BRM that the change in ownership and control and extension of the license termination date would require an opportunity for public comment and a hearing with an opportunity for cross-examination.
• DRC Shootaring Canyon Webpage
EXPANSION OF DANEROS URANIUM MINE
SCOPING COMMENTS DUE TO BLM - MARCH 14, 2014
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is providing an opportunity to comment on the scope of the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the expansion of the Daneros Uranium Mine, San Juan County, Utah. The Energy Fuels Resources Inc. (EFR) Mine Plan Modification would expand the surface disturbance of the mine from 4.6 acres to 46 acres near Natural Bridges National Monument. The expected total production of the mine would increase from 100,000 tons over 7 years to 500,000 tons over 20 years. That is, if the price of uranium goes up.
In 2012 EFR put the Daneros, La Sal Complex, and Pandora Mines on non-operational status. In addition to these mines, EFR has 6 other mines in Utah that are permitted, but non-operational (Energy Queen, Pine Ridge, Rim, Redd Block No. 4, Sage, and Tony M). EFR announced that In the summer of 2014 they wold cease operation at the two operational mines on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and cease processing uranium ore at their White Mesa Mill south of Blanding in San Juan County.
The expanded mine (now a large mining operation under Utah law) will also require approval by the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (DOGM) and include public comment. The Utah Division of Air Quality is still reviewing EFR's application for an Air Quality Permit and the public comments on the proposed Approval Order submitted last year.
Comments are due to the BLM by the close of business on March 14, 2014. Reference “Daneros Mine Plan Modification.” Information on where to submit comments is in the BLM Press Release. To submit Comments by E-Mail.
• Uranium Watch Daneros Mine Webpage
• Uranium Watch Uranium Mining Fact Sheet
• BLM Press Release
• EFR Mine Plan Modification
• BLM Environmental Information Bulletin Board. Search term: “Daneros Mine.”
• DOGM Daneros Large Mine Operation (M0370126) Documents
• DOGM Daneros Small Mine Operation (S0370121) Documents
ENERGY FUELS RESOURCES
STATUS AS A URANIUM PRODUCER
The year starts with Energy Fuels Resources Inc. (EFR) planning to stop processing ore a the White Mesa Uranium Mill in August of 2014. The cessation of ore processing will continue indefinitely. At this time EFR can purchase uranium on the open market for less than it costs to produce uranium to fullfill exisiting contrancts. EFR plans to commence processing of alternate feed in 2015. Barrels of uranium bearing waste from Canada and Metropolis, Illinois, are shipped to the mill to be processed as "ore." EFR has also requested authorization to process 24,000 tons of waste from the cleanup of mine water from the Midnite Mine in Wellpinit, Washington.
With the closure of the EFR operating mines on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (Arizona #1 and Pinenut), the uranium boom on the Colorado Plateau that began in 2007 is essentially over. The current spot price price of uranium ($34.50 a pound) does not support new development of mines or mills, or the expansion of existing mines. The issue now is the closure and reclamation of uranium mines that will never operate again, such as the Arizona 1, Pandora, and Rim Mines.
7th DISTRICT COURT DECISION
APPROVES WATER FOR GREEN RIVER NUCLEAR REACTOR
Judge George Harmond of the Utah 7th District Court issued a decision upholding the Utah State Engineer's appropriation of 53,600 acre feet (~ 87,000,000 gallons per day) from the Green River for the proposed Blue Castle Project nuclear reactor. The proponent of the reactor, Blue Castle Holdings Inc., has plans to submit an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for an Early Site Permit.
• District Court - Memorandum and Decision - November 27, 2013 (6.6 MB)
• Salt Lake Tribune article
• Uranium Watch web-site
LOW URANIUM PRICE FORCES ENERGY FUELS TO SUSPEND OPERATION OF WHITE MESA URANIUM MILL
Energy Fuels Resources Inc. has announced they will stop processing of uranium ore at the White Mesa Uranium Mill in August 2014. They plan to process uranium bearing waste (called "alternative feed material") sometime in 2015. Mining at the Arizona 1 and Pinenut Mines on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon will also cease. Ore at the Arizona 1 Mine will have been exhausted, and the Pinenut MIne will be placed on standby. Energy Fuels has already announced they would stop development of the Canyon Mine on the South Rim. Last year Energy Fuels suspended operations at three mines in Utah. Energy Fuels has a total of 8 permitted uranium mines in Utah that have ceased operation in the past 5 years. They have also closed the Sunday Mine Complex in Colorado.
The current price of uranium is below $35 per pound, making it uneconomical to continue to operate the mines and the mill, let alone develop new mines or construct a uranium mill in the Paradox Valley, Colorado.
The White Mesa Mill is currently out of compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency radon-emission limit for tailings Cell 2. The August radon emissions exceeded the 20 pico Curie per square meter per second (pCi/m2/sec) standard by over 50%. Cell 2 is drying out, increasing the amount of radon gas emissions even though it has an interim soil cover.
WORK HALTED AT CANYON MINE IN ARIZONA
Energy Fuels Resources, Inc., has placed the development of the Canyon Mine on non-operational standby status due to the low price of uranium and litigation. Energy Fuels has completed about 300 feet of a 1,500 ft. shaft at the mine on US Forest Service land on the south rim of the Grand Canyon near the magnificent Red Butte. The operation of the mine threatens Havasupai land and springs and resources in the Grand Canyon. The Havasupai Tribe, Grand Canyon Trust, Center for Biological Diversity, and Sierra Club signed a Stipulated Agreement with Energy Fuels suspending the operations. The agreement does not preclude the restart of the operation. The spot price of uranium continues to decline and is now below $35.00 a pound.
According to the conservation group’s News Release: ”The Havasupai Tribe and conservation groups sued the U.S. Forest Service in March  over its 2012 decision to allow the controversial mine to open without adequate tribal consultation and without updating a 1986 federal environmental review. The mine is within the Red Butte Traditional Cultural Property, which the Forest Service designated in 2010 for its religious and cultural importance to tribes, especially Havasupai. It threatens cultural values, wildlife, and water, including aquifers feeding Grand Canyon’s springs.”
BLACK RANGE MINERALS TO PURCHASE
SHOOTARING CANYON MILL
Black Range Minerals Limited has announced it intent to acquire the old Shootaring Canyon Uranium Mill, near Ticaboo in Garfield County, Utah. Black Range, an Australian Company, has entered into an agreement to purchase the Mill from Uranium One. The plan is to provide ore or concentrated ore to the Mill from Black Range or former Uranium One mine properties in Utah, Colorado, and Arizona. The Mill last operated in 1982. Despite the Environmental Protection Agency's intent that non-operating uranium mills be reclaimed in a timely manner, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Utah Division of Radiation Control (DRC) have allowed the Mill to remain on stand-by for over 30 years.
The DRC would have to approve the transfer of the Mill license to Black Range, which has no known experience in uranium mining and milling. The Shootaring Canyon license expires at the end of April 2014, so Black Range will have to submit a License Renewal application and an application to refurbish and restart the Mill.
Black Range has plans to obtain ore from old uranium mines in Utah: Velvet, Patti Anne, Wood, and Frank M. The Patti Ann has 85,000-ton pile of ore, which was covered during the reclamation of the mine. Black Range would have to obtain approval from the Bureau of Land Management and Division of Oil, Gas & Mining before any mining or ore removal. Black Range's claims that permitting would be completed in about 12 months is greatly exaggerated. The mines would require new plans of operation and a federal Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement.
Black Range also has plans for a large operation at the Hansen/Taylor Ranch in Colorado and plans for mining in Arizona. Blach Range intends to use borehole mining at the Hansen/Taylor Ranch project. The process uses water under high pressure to remove uraium from the host rock underground. There are still questions about whether this type of uranium recovery is a uranium milling operation and subject to regulation under the Atomic Energy Act, as are in-situ uranium leaching operations.
A unique aspect of Black Range's plans is the use of a new Ablation process to concentrate the ore prior to shipment to a uranium mill. Black Range has plans to do a test of Ablation in Wyoming. There are still questions about whether Ablation is a uranium milling process. At a minimum, Ablation and borehole mining operations would require a license from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for the possession of material that contains more than 0.05% uranium.
• BRM News Release
• BRM Quarterly Activites Report - September 2013
• BRM Investor Report
• BRM Update on Ablation
• Shootaring Canyon Mill