The company flagged the completion of the construction and licensing of the elution circuit at its Nichols Ranch in-situ recovery project. This has paved the way for uranium recovery operations involving elution (extraction using a solvent), precipitation, filter press and slurry processes to begin. In addition, the since the company has received the go-ahead from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the elution circuit is now being commissioned.
The new elution circuit is expected to significantly lower the company's future costs of production on a per pound basis by avoiding third party toll processing fees. The elution circuit also provides the company with 100% self-contained in-situ recovery (ISR) uranium production capabilities, that is not reliant on third parties for final processing, drying and packaging of yellow-cake prior to delivery to its customers.
Meanwhile, Energy Fuels is increasing production at the Nichols Ranch project on a controlled basis. Well-field development and drilling is exceeding expectations and increasing the company’s confidence in estimated uranium resources.
A sixth header-house at the Nichols Ranch project began production in November 2015. It continues to maintain grades and produce uranium at higher-than-expected rates. Furthermore, through the successful execution of slant hole drilling, the company has been able to place significant additional resources under pattern at this sixth header-house that were previously thought to be inaccessible due to challenging terrain.
The company plans to add a seventh header-house next month and an eighth in July of this year, and drilling and installation of production wells for these two header-houses has already begun.
The pattern for the seventh header-house was originally believed to have lower uranium grades; however, drilling is now indicating that the high-grade zones identified in earlier patterns of the project are more continuous than originally estimated, the company revealed.
In fact, the company has recorded the third highest intercept ever observed at Nichols Ranch, namely 0.441% uranium oxides (U3O8) with a thickness of 15.5 feet, in addition to other high-grade intercepts between 0.11% to 0.15% U3O8 with thicknesses of 9.0 to 14.5 feet.
Future drilling will confirm whether even more resources can be placed under pattern above the estimates contained in the current technical report, the company told investors.
Finally in late 2015, the company successfully completed the installation of the monitor wells and began baseline and hydrological testing work in the next phase of the Nichols Ranch project. Energy Fuels expects to start development and uranium recovery operations in this next phase in the latter part of 2016.