Uranium mill and mine proposed for Emery County
Longtime uranium entrepreneur George Glasier is back in business with a new proposal to develop a mine and mill in Utah’s Emery County. The projects would use new and efficient technologies to extract ore from the ground and separate uranium and vanadium – systems that rely on water rather than the hazardous chemicals used in traditional processes.
However, environmental activists doubt Glasier will get the necessary permits anytime soon, if ever.
As the founder of Energy Fuels Inc., Glacier acquired some of that company’s properties to form a Canada-based company called Western Uranium & Vanadium Corp. in 2014. to found.
In a press release issued Monday, Western unveiled its latest plans and said it had acquired land for the proposed mill and initiated permitting processes with the support of state and local officials. This mill would also be able to process cobalt, a critical element used in electric vehicles.
“We have what are probably the best uranium-vanadium properties in Colorado and Utah,” Glasier said in a phone interview Tuesday. He has purchased private land in the Green River Industrial Park to construct the mill that would process ore from the Colorado mines he controlled. Western also plans to develop a new mine on state claims several miles west of Green River.
“We examined the locations for a year and found the very best location because it has the infrastructure right next to the motorway,” said Glasier. “It has water supplied by the city of Green River. And it has power very close by – and the support of local people.”
He believes he can start up the mine and mill as early as late 2025. In Garfield County, a Canadian company called Anfield Energy recently unveiled its own plans to revitalize the old Shootaring Canyon mill it acquired in 2015, which closed in 1983 after just six months of operation.
Also in the 1980’s, Glasier helped build Energy Fuels’ processing facility outside of White Mesa, currently the country’s only operating uranium mill. He was President and CEO of Energy Fuels from 2006 to 2011 before founding Western as a publicly traded company based in Toronto in 2014.
The Company operates out of Nucla, Colorado where it currently operates the Sunday Mine complex, a network of five uranium mines in the Big Gypsum Valley just across the Utah state line.
While he was still at the helm of Energy Fuels, Glasier proposed a mill in Colorado’s Paradox Valley at a location called Pinion Ridge, which divided the community and was ultimately shot down by regulators, according to Jennifer Thurston, an activist with the Information Network for Responsible mining has long been denied by Glasier’s uranium proposals in Colorado.
She said the latest proposal looks like a repeat of Pinion Ridge.
“Green River is a strange place,” she said. “It looks and feels a bit like Pinion Ridge’s proposal almost 15 years ago. Many of the same elements that were present then are present again. With uranium, you often see things repeating themselves in speculative cycles. And it’s happening again.”
Her group, meanwhile, has convinced state regulators to revoke the permit for one of the Sunday mines, known as Topaz, and order its reclamation, citing Colorado law that requires mines to shut down after 10 years without production must.
For years, the US uranium industry was paralyzed by low commodity prices and a lack of processing facilities. As a result, the US nuclear energy sector sources only about 10% of its uranium fuel domestically. But companies like Anfield and Western are banking on a nuclear revival as utilities switch from fossil fuels to zero-emission energy sources.
Uranium prices currently remain below $40 per pound, which is less than the cost of producing the raw material at most US mines. But Glacier said he believes the milling process he is promoting could turn a profit at uranium prices of $40.
While Western has no plans to mine cobalt and none is currently being produced in Utah, Glasier said he has received inquiries from various prosectors interested in processing cobalt ore at the now proposed Green River mill.
“If you look at Utah’s mineral maps, there are a lot of cobalt deposits. I don’t know how good they are,” he said. “But people came up to us and said, ‘If you’re going to build the processing plant, would you consider putting in a cobalt loop?’ And we said, ‘Sure, we’re going to work that into the circuit.’ …. It won’t cost much more. The front end of a processing plant is about the same for any metal you reclaim.”
But uranium would be the main attraction at the Green River mill, where Glasier plans to demonstrate a new process for separating uranium oxides from ore that he believes would outperform the existing White Mesa mill.
“This mill will be far more technologically advanced,” Glasier said. “Because of the technology we have, the cost of production will be far lower.”
The operation would use a process called ablation, or “kinetic separation,” in which the ore is concentrated as it’s mined, so less ore needs to be processed at the mill, Glasier said.
“It’s a technology that uses any type of secondary mineral deposit where the mineral coats the sand,” he said. “This is the case with virtually all uranium-vanadium deposits in Utah and Colorado.”
The idea is to subject the ore to water under high pressure.
“Basically, it’s pushing these grains of sand against each other at high speeds. It blows off that layer of minerals and then we just screened out the clean sand that has no mineral in it,” he said. “It’s a patented process, but it’s very simple.”
This process would increase the concentration of uranium in the ore by a factor of eight, which would then be shipped to the mill while the rest would be returned to the mine.
“So out of every seven tons that you take out of the mine, only one ton goes through the mill’s chemical process to purify uranium and vanadium,” Glasier said. “That’s why it’s so much better ecologically. When you add chemicals, you end up with toxic residues from the mill that you have to dispose of in specific ways.”
That sounds good on paper, but Thurston suspects Western will face regulatory hurdles that could significantly increase its processing costs. The proposed process would create two waste streams, one at the mine and one at the mill, both of which would likely be classified as overburden under the Atomic Energy Act, she said.
“Uranium tailings have to be disposed of in a very sophisticated storage facility. This is where our opposition came into play. It’s not about the technology. It’s good for them to innovate and there are benefits when they do it right,” Thurston said. “What we have been concerned about is the creation of two new waste streams for which they are asking for a full blanket exemption from regulation. That is not OK. You would have to get a license.”
https://www.sltrib.com/news/environment/2023/01/25/uranium-mill-mine-proposed-emery/ Uranium mill and mine proposed for Emery County