Three new uranium mines in the US began production at the end of last year. US mining company Energy Fuels opened the mines in Arizona and Utah in response to strong market conditions.
At the end of November last year, uranium prices reached more than $80 per pound (lb) for the first time in more than 15 years. Commenting on the attractive market conditions, Mark Chalmers, CEO of Energy Fuels, said: “Due to the substantial increase in uranium prices, US Government support for nuclear energy and nuclear fuel, and a global focus on reducing carbon emissions, Energy Fuels is resuming large-scale uranium production.”
In a technical report in 2022, the company estimated total proven and probable reserves of 1,567,800lb of triuranium octoxide (U₃O₈), a compound of uranium, in Pinyon Plain in Arizona. The La Sal Project complex of uranium/vanadium mines in eastern Utah has 4.3 million pounds of (U₃O₈) in the inferred category.
Energy Fuels is also looking to commence production at mines in Colorado and Utah in the next year. This would increase its uranium production to more than two million pounds of (U₃O₈) by 2025, “if strong market conditions continue as expected”.
Further permitting and development of projects in New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah could lead to production of five million pounds of (U₃O₈) per year in the coming years.
Higher prices and strong uranium market conditions are largely caused by burgeoning interest in nuclear power as a vital energy source across the world. Focus on nuclear has been particularly strong in the US, where the Biden administration signalled its commitment last year by offering $1.2bn in aid to extend the life of distressed nuclear power plants.
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Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, western nations are also looking to diversify away from Russian uranium to fuel their nuclear projects, with US President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledging during a meeting in March last year to secure fuel from “like-minded allies”.