Energy Fuels Inc (TSE:EFR) (NYSE American:UUUU) announced on Tuesday that it has produced a rare earth element (REE) carbonate concentrate on a pilot scale at its 100% owned White Mesa Mill, near Blanding, in Utah.
The Lakewood, Coloroado-based uranium mining giant said the REE concentrate was produced using existing infrastructure and technologies at the Mill from a sample of monazite sands from a North American source. Monazite sands are a valuable natural uranium ore, which also contain high concentrations of REEs.
"The Mill recovered the high concentrations of REEs in the monazite sands, in addition to the contained uranium which will be sold into the nuclear fuel industry," said the company.
Energy Fuels noted that to the best of its knowledge, this is the first REE concentrate produced from monazite sands at any significant quantity in North America in more than 20 years.
The White Mesa Mill has a long history of recovering other metals along with uranium from uranium ores. Many of its ores from the Colorado Plateau contain vanadium, and the Mill has recovered over 54,000,000 pounds of vanadium as a co-product with uranium from these ores over the life of the Mill, making Energy Fuels the largest conventional vanadium producer in the US in recent years.
“The recovery of REE concentrate from monazite sands is no different in concept than the recovery of these other metals. As a result, the Mill is able to recover REEs along with uranium from these monazite sands using existing infrastructure and technologies at the Mill, with only minor routine process adjustments,” Energy Fuels President and CEO Mark Chalmers said in a statement.
Chalmers added that the company has the potential to enter commercial REE production more quickly and inexpensively than others.
"By using existing infrastructure and technologies at the Mill to recover the uranium and the REEs from monazite sands, we are able to avoid the years of permitting and development, along with the tens, or even hundreds, of millions of dollars of capital that others would be faced with. Assuming the Company is able to secure adequate quantities of monazite sands, we expect to be in a position to produce commercial quantities of REE Concentrate by early 2021," added Chalmers.
“Successful testing at scale also demonstrates the importance of the White Mesa Mill in helping the US re-establish its domestic REE supply chain."
Energy Fuels also noted that it is in negotiations with various parties to procure sources of monazite sands that can potentially be processed on a commercial scale at the Mill for the recovery of REE concentrate and uranium. In addition, it is carrying out ongoing discussions on the possible sale of REE concentrate produced at the Mill to an REE separation facility.
Energy Fuels has been the top-producing domestic uranium miner in the United States since 2017, with assets that include the White Mesa Mill in Utah, the only conventional uranium mill operating in the US, the Nichols Ranch in-situ recovery (ISR) Project in Wyoming, and the Alta Mesa ISR Project in Texas.
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