Now that Energy Fuels has 100 percent ownership in two small uranium mines in southern Utah, the company is ready to start the permitting process to open them.
The Toronto-based company, which proposes to build the Piñon Ridge uranium mill in Paradox Valley, Colo., now owns the Sage Plain properties, which contains the Plain and the Calliham mines. The property is located 15 miles northwest of Monticello. The deal’s completion was announced Oct. 2, and it means that Energy Fuels’ former partner, Australian-based Aldershot Resources, no longer owns its 50 percent share of the mines. The deal also includes some uranium mines and properties in Arizona.
According to Energy Fuels, the buyout cost around $750,000 in cash, 3,527,570 shares of Energy Fuels common stock and a cancelation of Aldershot’s debts to Energy Fuels.
Energy Fuels spokesperson Curtis Moore said the deal has been ongoing for some time, and the company hopes construction on the two mines can begin after the permitting process is complete. Permitting with the State of Utah is expected to take around 12 to 18 months.
“The Calliham is probably the one that will be put into production first,” Moore said. “These are underground mines, so the entire area in the mine is potentially 2,700 acres, but the surface disturbance is much less than that.”
The two mines are thought to contain around 2.83 million pounds of uranium and 17.83 million pounds of vanadium, and the surface area is around 3.2 acres. However, both mines need infrastructure improvements to begin operations.
With the start of the permitting process, some concerns still linger about the mines’ impact and condition. Program Director of Moab-based Uranium Watch, Sarah Fields, said the mines have never been properly reclaimed, and reopening them could create issues with surrounding property owners.
“The Sage mine is on BLM land and should have had a notice of intent and a plan of operations, but it never did,” Fields said. “According to BLM regulations, it should have had BLM oversight — now [the BLM] is unsure about what to do.”
Though the Sage mine last produced ore in 1990, the Calliham mine hasn’t produced anything since 1981 or 1982. Fields said the Sage mine is currently permitted through the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining. While the Calliham mine was fully reclaimed, Fields said she thinks the Sage mine should have seen similar treatment.
“Under regulations [the Sage mine] should have been fully reclaimed,” Fields said. “When I visited the site, there are old buildings that have not changed from some of the old photographs from the ‘80s and ‘90s. There is also a hole that opened up from an old shaft or vent with a fence around it — I’m sure Energy Fuels knows about it, and it will need to be fixed.”
For the permitting process to be complete, the BLM would have to have a plan of operations and do an environmental assessment of the mines. In the past, public hearings have been held with similar projects.
Energy Fuels’ local interests include a project to build a new uranium mill in the Paradox Valley on the east side of the La Sal Mountains. The company is waiting for the final approval from the State of Colorado on a permit. The permit is pending court-ordered public hearings, which the Colorado Department of Public Heath and Environment have set for Oct. 15 and Nov. 7 in Nucla, Colo.
This summer, Energy Fuels bought a number of the other uranium mines in Utah through acquisition of all of Denison Mines’ U.S. operations. The acquisition also included the White Mesa Mill in Blanding, which is capable of producing 2,000 pounds of uranium ore per day, according Energy Fuels.