Friday, May 16, 2008

Western Lands Uranium Gopher for May 16, 2008

Mining uranium exploration press releases for useful stuff
(A occasional column of money and mining news items)

The rise of nuclear energy, a second act if ever there was one, has given the price of uranium a shot in the arm. In western states in the U.S. interest in uranium mining is growing and with it comes another growth industry - the production of press releases about the uranium mining industry. In an effort to separate the really interesting from the merely informational, I'm posting my running notes on uranium mining in western states.

The choices of the subjects are a combination of what I find in the press release pile and what looks interesting to me and for readers. I'm focusing mostly on western states that are "west" of the 100th meridian, but this isn't hard and fast. The states of interest are WY, CO, UT, TX, NM, AZ, & NV. For this reason I call this series the "western lands uranium gopher." These are news notes and the content is not to be considered investment advice.

Colorado uranium bills pass

A second chance for a controversial uranium bill that would release proprietary mining information to the public paid off for two legislators from Ft. Collins opposed to a planned ISR mine near Nunn, Colo. Although the bill pushed by Rep. Randy Fisher and Rep. John Kefalas failed in a House committee, the measure was revived on the Senate side. Senate Bill 228 would require mining companies doing business in Colorado to disclose prospecting information to the public that previously had been kept secret. It requires that all information provided to the mined land reclamation board of a notice of intent to conduct prospecting is a matter of public record.

However, the bill exempts information related to the exact location, size, or nature of the mineral deposit, “and other information designated by the operator as proprietary or trade secrets.”

Essentially, what the public may learn is that there is a notice of intent to conduct prospecting in a general geographic area. The limitations in the language of the bill appear to meet some of the objections of the mining industry. The bill is not specific to uranium mining which may account for its relatively broad impact on the mining community generally.

A second bill which specifically targets uranium mining also passed in the Senate after clearing the House. House Bill 1161, also sponsored by the two Ft. Collins legislators, strengthens state regulations in the area of environmental controls and water quality standards for ISR mines. Like its companion SB 228, both bills are aimed at Powertech’s proposed ISR mine in northeast Colorado. The bill would require ISR mines to restore groundwater at injection sites to pre-mining conditions or state standards. Colorado Governor Bill Ritter told the Greeley Tribune he would sign both measures.

Dick Clement, the head of Powertech’s US operations, told the Northern Colorado Business Report he has no real problems with HB 1161. “There is no question we can do this but we don’t know how much ground water it will take.” He added the bill would not delay the company’s plan to begin its permit process later this year.

Clement also said SB 228 would not affect Powertech’s operations because its prospecting work is already complete for the Weld County site.

The Colorado mining industry opposed HB 1161, but mining opponents, whose residential subdivisions have spread into historic mining districts, were pleased with the passage of both bills. In addition to support from the northeast part of the state in Larimer and Weld counties, homeowners near Canon City supported both bills in response to the startup of uranium mining activities in western Fremont County. Black Range Minerals, an Australian firm, is proposing to mine uranium the Tallahassee Pass area. The firm ran into trouble with local officials when it failed to apply for a conditional use permit. The subsequent hearing notice required by the county alerted homeowners to plans for the mine.

Wyoming could see 20 new uranium mines

Mining companies have told the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) the state could see up to 50 new uranium mines in the state in the next few years. Of the 30 applications, or notices of intent, the NRC has received for new uranium mines, 20 are in Wyoming. The applications include new mines, restart of closed mines, and expansion of existing mines. The other 10 are spread across five other states – Nebraska, South Dakota, New Mexico, and Arizona.

Don McKenzie, of DEQ, said the agency was moving three people from the land division to deal with the increased workload for uranium mines. He told the Casper Tribune, “With the market price the way it is, there’s certainly a resurgence of interest in those known areas where we have uranium ore.” He added that many of the expected applications will be for ISR mines.

The expected flood of new uranium mine applications has also gotten the attention of civic and environmental groups who are asking whether the state is getting its due in mining taxes. The Equality State Policy Center and the Powder River Basin Resource Council have published a report in which they claim uranium mines aren’t being taxed as a percentage of value in comparison to other energy commodities like coal, oil and gas.

Environmental groups say the 4% tax on production, set in the 1980s, has short changed the state’s ability to pay for effective regulation of the uranium mining industry. The Powder River group has criticized the effectiveness of DEQ in responding to complaints about violations of uranium mining regulations in the state.

New Mexico group challenge NRC permit for ISR mine

A federal appeals court is expected to hear arguments this week as part of a first of a kind challenge to an NRC license for an ISR mine near Church Rock, New Mexico. The New Mexico Environmental Law Center charges that Texas-based Uranium Resources would pollute groundwater as part of its in-situ leach mining.

The firm counters that the groundwater in the area of the proposed mine cannot be used for drinking water or livestock because it is already contaminated with radon and uranium. The NRC agrees with that assessment. Charles Mullins, an attorney representing the NRC, told the Las Cruces Sun, “If it [the water] was drinkable, you wouldn’t want to mine there because there wouldn’t be any uranium.”

Arizona denies a permit to Denison

Denison Mines has been denied a state permit for the Canyon mine. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality said Denison Mines proposed using outdated, 20-year-old liners and impoundment ponds to capture uranium mine-related runoff. In addition, ADEQ said Denison wasn't specific enough in describing pollution-control measures at the proposed mines. The agency told Denison to come back with a better plan if it wants a permit.

The Canyon Mine was the site of a long legal battle, opposed for mining by the Havasupai Tribe. The tribe lost that court battle, but owner International Uranium Corporation put mining on hold until uranium prices rebounded. There is equipment on the site, but it has never been used to operate a mine.

Energy Fuels inks joint venture for Arizona Strip uranium deposits

Energy Fuels and Royal Lynx, an Australian firm, have announced a joint venture to acquire, explore, and mine uranium properties in northern Arizona. Energy Fuels has 26 prospect parcels on 4,500 acres in the Arizona Strip region. In the 50:50 joint venture Royal Lynx will contribute $2 million over a three year period. Once the cash commitment has been met, Royal Lynx will share in ongoing costs. Energy Fuels will be the operator of any mine work that takes place. The agreement is a cash infusion for Energy Fuels that will speed up its work on the Arizona properties.

Through its office in Salt Lake City, Royal Lynx has developed interests in over 43,000 acres with uranium mine parcels in Utah, Colorado, and Arizona.

American Uranium gets permit for Wyoming deep injection well

American Uranium announced that its joint venture with Strathmore Minerals has obtain a permit from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for a deep injection well on the Reno Creek property in the Pumpkin Buttes uranium district of the Powder River Basin in Campbell County, Wyo. The permit was transferred from a prior owner of the property and must be renewed by June 2008. In addition, the company must still obtain a DEQ mine permit and a license from the NRC for an ISR mine. These applications will be filed in Fall 2009 according to the company.

White Canyon reports drill results from Blanding, Utah, site

White Canyon Uranium, an Australian company, reports drilling results from its Blanding, Utah, Daneros uranium deposit. The firm reports up to 3.4% U3O8 and a range from 0.25% to 2.01% across a dozen drill holes. The firm also reported assay intervals of up to 17% copper. The current drilling program is designed to test drill results from the 1980s and to determine the areas of mineralization beyond the known deposit.

Uranium companies spending on data mining

Artha announced it has acquired significant mining data on the Shirley Basin in Wyoming as part of work on one of four properties optioned from Energy Metals Corp. The data on 2,200 drill holes includes geophysical logs, surveys, and maps. World Nuclear Corp. the prior owner of the property, identified two resources of 877,000 lbs and 493,000 lbs respectively U3O8. However, the firm cautions these resources estimates were compiled in the late 1970s and are not compliant with NI 43-101. At the time the initial drilling was done, uranium prices were dropping and an additional 480 drill hole program was abandoned.

Yellowcake Mining announced the acquisition of a database of geologic information for the Return Mine in the Uravan Beck property in Colorado. It recently purchased a data base consisting of geologic reports and sections, and the results from more than 200 drill holes completed in 1982 to 1984 by a previous operator of the Return Mine. The mine is located on the Uravan Beck property that the company has optioned. The data from this drilling became the basis for a resource study prepared in 1985 for Wisconsin Public Service Corp. (WPSC). The report indicated that the diluted, in-place resource was 17,000 tons at 0.34% U3O8 and 1.44% V2O5.

Samples were recently collected by the company from blasted but un-recovered mineralized rock in underground workings at the Return Mine. Six samples contained from 0.05 to 1.1% U3O8, and average 0.49% U3O8, and from 0.34 to 1.8% V2O5, and average 1.5% V2O5.

Several thousand tons of abandoned uranium-bearing dumps are situated adjacent to the Return Mine portal. Eight samples collected from the dumps, by the company, contained from 0.08 to 0.24% U3O8, and average 0.16% U3O8, and from 0.50% to 1.1% V2O5, and average 0.78% V2O5.

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