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US company Energy Fuels Inc will become a commercial rare earths supplier in 2021, having entered into a three-year supply agreement to acquire a minimum of 2500 tons per year of natural monazite sands from which it will also recover uranium at its White Mesa mill in Utah. Separately, Vancouver-based International Consolidated Uranium Inc said it had been attracted to its newly announced acquisition of the Laguna Salada uranium project in Argentina by the by-product vanadium.

The White Mesa Mill (Image: Energy Fuels)

Lakewood, Colorado-based Energy Fuels expects to begin processing the monazite sands from Chemours' Offerman Mineral Sand Plant in Georgia in the first quarter of 2021. It plans to recover the contained uranium and a marketable mixed rare earth element (REE) carbonate, which it says will be an important step towards re-establishing a fully-integrated American REE supply chain. The amount of REEs contained in the monazite sands to be supplied by Chemours will represent "close to 10%" of total current American REE demand, as contained in end-use products, Energy Fuels said.

Energy Fuels is in talks with "other entities" to acquire additional supplies of monazite and is working with the US Department of Energy to evaluate the potential to process other types of REE and uranium bearing ores produced from coal-based resources. It aims to process over 15,000 tons of monazite and other sources of ore per year for the recovery of REEs and uranium.

The USA currently imports nearly all of its REE, uranium and vanadium requirements, despite having ample domestic resources.

Energy Fuels President and CEO Mark Chalmers said. "Our goal is to domestically produce the raw materials needed for clean energy and advanced technologies, while creating green jobs in an economically challenged part of the country … Importantly, in the United States we are highly regulated and operate to the highest standards, which means we produce these minerals more responsibly than many of the countries from which we currently import."

US President Donald Trump in October declared a "national emergency" to deal with the threat to the USA's security, foreign policy and economy from its "undue reliance" on supplies of critical minerals from overseas.

Vanadium at Laguna Salada

International Consolidated Uranium Inc has entered into an option agreement to acquire U3O8 Corp's 100% interest in the Laguna Salada uranium and vanadium project in Argentina. A 2014 preliminary economic assessment of the project in Chubut Province established an annual production of 0.6 million pounds of U3O8 (231 tU) and 1 million pounds of V2O5 at a cash cost of production of USD21.63 per pound of U3O8, net of a vanadium by-product credit. The deposit has 3.8 million pounds of U3O8 in NI 43-101-compliant inferred resources.

The company recently entered into options agreements to acquire a 100% interest in the Ben Lomond and Georgetown uranium projects in Australia from Mega Uranium and a 100% interest in the Mountain Lake uranium project in Nunavut, Canada from IsoEnergy Ltd.

CEO Philip Williams said the company considers Laguna Salada to be one of the more advanced projects in its portfolio with substantial mining and processing work done by the previous owners. "We are also attracted to the project for its vanadium by-product, the exploration potential beyond the known resources and the jurisdiction due to its pro-nuclear stance," he said.

President and CEO of Canadian company U3O8 Corp Richard Spencer said the agreement is the first step in a restructuring of the company.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Wednesday, 16 December 2020
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