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Energy Fuels says it could triple US uranium production if prices increase

Louisville, Kentucky (Platts)--12 Sep 2017 902 am EDT/1302 GMT


Energy Fuels, a leading US producer of uranium, expects to be the country's top producer at about 650,000 lb in 2017 and could triple its annual output if prices rose from the current $20/lb, a company official said Monday.

In comments webcast on the company's website Monday afternoon, Curtis Moore, vice president of markets and corporate development for the Lakewood, Colorado-based company, told the 19th Annual Rodman & Renshaw Global Investment Conference in New York that his company is better positioned than other domestic producers to take advantage of a predicted rise in uranium prices.

"We expect to be the No. 1 uranium producer in the US this year. We're going to produce about 650,000 lb of uranium this year," he said, with most sold to US electric utilities to be used in nuclear power plants.

"We have the potential to get up to 2 million to 2 1/2 million lb of production annually," he said, with opportunities to boost production of vanadium as well.

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The US is not a top uranium producer, however. Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia accounted for more than two-thirds of the 62,366 st produced worldwide in 2016. US output fell to 1,125 st from 1,256 st in 2015.

Moore said his company controls three of the key uranium producing centers in the US: the White Mesa Mill in Utah, Nichols Ranch processing facility in Wyoming, and the Alta Mesa project in Texas. White Mesa is the only conventional uranium mill operating in the US, he said.

"We could get production up to 2 million to 2 1/2 million tons a year in six to 12 months," he said, if prices were sufficiently supportive at $40-$50/lb. Energy Fuels' costs to produce that much uranium would be around $30/lb, he said.

"Today's uranium price of about $20/lb is simply unsustainable."

Energy Fuels believes demand for uranium will increase in the years ahead as nuclear power plays an important role in the country's clean energy strategy.

But prices are suppressed at present and only a handful of uranium miners are operating in the US because the market is oversupplied, he said. Much of the uranium used by US utilities is imported.

While Energy Fuels considers itself primarily a uranium miner, it may start producing more copper as well.

According to Moore, his company has discovered "an extremely high-grade copper resource" at its Canyon mine in northern Arizona. Energy Fuels estimates the mine's reserves include about 2.4 million lb of recoverable uranium and 12 million lb of copper.

--Bob Matyi, newsdesk@spglobal.com
--Edited by Jason Lindquist, jason.lindquist@spglobal.com




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