Tag Archives: in-situ recovery

Wood to investigate ISR potential of Phoenix uranium deposit in Wheeler River JV FS

Denison Mines Corp says it has selected engineering firm Wood PLC to lead and author a feasibility study for the in-situ recovery (ISR) mining operation proposed for the Phoenix uranium deposit in the Athabasca Basin of Canada, part of the Wheeler River Joint Venture (WRJV) project.

The completion of the study is, Denison says, a critical step in the progression of the project and is intended to advance de-risking efforts to the point where the company and the WRJV will be able to make a definitive development decision.

Denison has an effective 95% ownership interest in Wheeler River (90% directly, and 5% indirectly through a 50% ownership in JCU), which has combined indicated mineral resources of 132.1 MIb of U3O8 (1.8 Mt at an average grade of 3.3% U3O8), plus combined inferred mineral resources of 3 MIb of U3O8 (82,000 t at an average grade of 1.7% U3O8).

Key objectives of the study are expected to include:

  • Environmental stewardship: extensive planning and technical work undertaken as part of the ongoing Environmental Assessment (EA), including applicable feedback from consultation efforts with various interested parties, is expected to be incorporated into the feasibility study project designs to support Denison’s aspiration of achieving a superior standard of environmental stewardship that meets and exceeds the anticipated environmental expectations of regulators and aligns with the interests of local Indigenous communities;
  • Updated estimate of mineral resources: mineral resources for Phoenix were last estimated in 2018. Since then, additional drilling has been completed in and around the Phoenix deposit as part of various ISR field tests, including drill hole GWR-045 (22% eU3O8 over 8.6 m), and exploration drilling. The updated mineral resource estimate will form the basis for mine planning in the study;
  • Mine design optimisation: feasibility study mine design is expected to reflect the decision to adopt a freeze wall configuration for containment of the ISR well field, as well as the results from multiple field test programs and extensive hydrogeological modelling exercises, which have provided various opportunities to optimise other elements of the project – including well pattern designs, permeability enhancement strategies, and both construction and production schedules;
  • Processing plant optimization: feasibility study process plant design is expected to reflect the decision to increase the ISR mining uranium head-grade to 15 g/L, as well as the results from extensive metallurgical laboratory studies designed to optimize the mineral processing aspects of the project; and
  • Class 3 capital cost estimate: the feasibility study is also intended to provide the level of engineering design necessary to support a Class 3 capital cost estimate (AACE international standard with an accuracy of -15% /+25%), which is expected to provide a basis to confirm the economic potential of the project highlighted in the prefeasibility study completed in 2018.

The 2018 prefeasibility study considered the potential economic merit of developing the Phoenix deposit as an ISR operation and the Gryphon deposit as a conventional underground mining operation. Taken together, the project was estimated to have mine production of 109.4 Mib of U3O8 over a 14-year mine life.

David Cates, Denison’s President & CEO, said: “The ISR de-risking activities we’ve completed since the publication of the prefeasibility study for Wheeler River in 2018 have been designed to support the completion of a future feasibility study, and the results to date have further confirmed the technical viability of the project – leading to the decision to advance the project and initiate the formal feasibility study process.

“During this de-risking phase, we have been able to verify orebody permeability and the leachability of high-grade uranium in conditions representative of an ISR mining setting. We’ve also engineered an improved containment design using a more conventional ground freezing approach. Based on the results of field programs and metallurgical lab testing completed over the last three years, we are confident that the project is ready to advance into a full feasibility study. Taken together with the selection of globally recognised engineering firm Wood, the decision to launch the formal feasibility study process for Phoenix represents another important step towards achieving our objective of bringing low-cost ISR mining to the high-grade uranium deposits of the Athabasca Basin.”

Taseko Mines starts commercial construction move at Florence ISR copper project

Taseko Mines, having just completed a $400 million bond refinancing and fundraising program, is moving forward with developing a commercial operation at its Florence in-situ recovery (ISR) copper project in Arizona, USA.

Capital requirements for the commercial production facility at Florence, which followed an ISR pilot project, are estimated at $230 million.

Pending final regulatory approvals and financing, Taseko has previously stated it could start construction of the commercial operation this year, with first production in late 2022.

Stuart McDonald, President of Taseko, said: “With the majority of the required funding for our Florence Copper project now in hand, we are moving forward with final design engineering of the commercial production facility as well as procurement of certain critical components.”

McDonald said the company is continuing to advance discussions with potential joint venture partners at Florence, but its strong cash balance and improved Gibraltar mine cash flows from copper prices currently over $3.70/Ib ($8,159/t) means it has “numerous options available” to obtain the remaining funding.

Russell Hallbauer, CEO of Taseko, added on Florence: “Florence is one of the least capital-intensive copper production facilities in the world and, when fully ramped up, will produce 40,000 t of high-quality cathode copper annually for the US domestic market.

“It is a green project, with carbon emissions and water and energy consumption all dramatically lower than a conventional mine, and, with C1 operating costs of $0.90/Ib of copper, it will also be in the lowest quartile of the global cost curve.”

Taseko Mines eyes commercial production at Florence ISR copper project

Taseko Mines prospects of opening the US’ next commercial in-situ recovery (ISR) copper project have been strengthened following a recent hearing held by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ).

At the public hearing, which came shortly after the ADEQ issued the company with a draft Aquifer Protection Permit (APP) for its commercial ISR project, Taseko’s plans for the development of the Florence copper project received “overwhelming support”, the company said.

The public hearing is a key part of the process for the granting of the full APP. It had participation from local community members, local business owners, elected state officials and city councillors, a state senator as well as representatives from the technical services sector, Taseko reported.

Russell Hallbauer, Chief Executive Officer and Director of Taseko, said: “30 interested parties spoke at the hearing, communicating great support for the company and the project, with only one individual not in favour. The ADEQ heard loud and clear that the community wants this project to advance to commercial operation.

“The company has worked very hard to inform the Florence community on not only the safeguards in place to ensure the environmental integrity of the project, but also the environmental benefits of the Florence copper extraction process. The extensive data collected from 18 months of operating the test facility is proof that the process works, both from a technical perspective as well as environmentally.”

The ADEQ will take written correspondence for another three weeks, until October 12, before writing and issuing the final permit, Taseko says.

Taseko commenced well field operations at its Florence ISR pilot project in central Arizona, US, in January 2019, reaching “commercial grade levels” less than six months after.

The commercial Florence mine is expected to have a copper production capacity of 85 MIb/y (38,555 t/y) and a 21-year mine life.

Energy Fuels buys up Prompt Fission Neutron tech in preparation for US uranium revival

US-based Energy Fuels Inc has entered into an agreement to acquire the Prompt Fission Neutron (PFN) technology and equipment, including all its related intellectual property, from GeoInstruments Logging LLC.

The deal will give the uranium producer the exclusive right to use, licence, and service this particular PFN technology globally, which Energy Fuels says is critical to successful uranium production, particularly from many in-situ recovery (ISR) deposits, as it more accurately measures downhole in-situ U3O8 (uranium oxide) ore grade, versus traditional Total Gamma and Spectral Gamma methods.

The PFN equipment and technology to be acquired by Energy Fuels includes four PFN tools; nine gamma tools with point resistivity, spontaneous potential and deviation; two low-mileage, heavy-duty logging trucks with logging and associated equipment; power supplies, computers, communication, and other technology; and all associated intellectual property, including all internal details of the tools, circuit board diagrams, firmware code, software, manuals, instructions, patents and the sole right to utilise and licence the acquired PFN technology globally.

The total consideration to be paid by Energy Fuels to GIL will be $500,000 in cash, with closing of the transaction expected to occur within around two weeks, after completion of a due diligence inspection of the equipment.

Energy Fuels currently has some PFN equipment in various states of repair, which it has used for its mining operations in the past, as do other companies in the US and around the world.

“With the acquisition of this additional PFN equipment and technology from GIL, Energy Fuels will not only be able to utilise the additional equipment to ramp-up production from its ISR properties more quickly and efficiently in the event of improved market conditions, it will also secure the ability to service, repair and maintain PFN equipment currently held by the company and others, as well as licence this technology to others in the future,” it said.

PFN technologies have played an important part in discovering, and bringing to production, some of the best uranium deposits in the world, according to Energy Fuels, including the Beverly and Four Mile uranium mines currently operating in South Australia. Energy Fuels’ Alta Mesa ISR project in South Texas, which produced nearly 5 MIb of U3O8 between 2005 and 2012, also deployed PFN technology while in production, the company said.

Many geologically younger ISR uranium deposits in the US, and particularly Texas, have a certain degree of disequilibrium, whereby the radioactivity measured in drill holes using traditional Total Gamma and Spectral Gamma methods does not accurately correspond to ore grade, due to the continued decay of uranium daughter products including potassium, thorium, lead and bismuth relative to radium, a significant gamma emitter, according to Energy Fuels.

“Traditionally, disequilibrium is calculated using mud rotary coring techniques and laboratory gamma and alpha spectrometry; all of which are expensive and time consuming,” it said. “Without accurate in-situ measurement of uranium, significant high-grade ore has been missed using the traditional downhole techniques.”

PFN technology solves this issue, Energy Fuels says, by instead using neutron activation to detect uranium in drill holes. The PFN tool creates very fast neutrons (14 MeV) and fires 108 neutrons per second. Therefore, the neutrons emitted by the PFN tool excite, at an atomic level, in-situ uranium atoms in the drill hole, creating fast (epithermal) neutrons and slow (thermal) neutrons.

The ratio of epithermal to thermal neutrons is proportional to uranium, allowing the U3O8 ore grade to be accurately calculated, according to the company. This provides a relatively inexpensive and instantaneous means for accurate assaying in-situ ore grades over large areas, while allowing for accurate orebody mapping, resource estimation, and wellfield planning, it said.

Mark Chalmers, President and CEO of Energy Fuels, said the acquisition will further solidify the company’s position as the leading uranium miner in the US, especially in the ISR space.

“We believe that acquiring PFN technology is now more important than ever, as we believe a revival of the US uranium industry is imminent,” he said.

On April 23, the US Nuclear Fuel Working Group (NFWG) described why the US needs healthy uranium and nuclear fuel industries in order to secure US energy and national security and prevent Russia, China and other geopolitical rivals from gaining control of global – and US – nuclear markets, he said.

“We believe the NFWG report represents the strongest US government commitment to supporting US uranium miners in decades,” Chalmers said.

The NFWG report also provided actions the US government can take to support domestic uranium mining, including creating a US uranium reserve, and potentially increasing the size of the American Assured Fuel Supply, according to Chalmers.

“In response to the NFWG Report recommendations, President Trump has already announced a budget that seeks $150 million per year over the next 10 years (totalling $1.5 billion over that timeframe) to establish a strategic uranium reserve intended ‘to provide additional assurances of availability of uranium in the event of a market disruption’,” he said.

Excelsior’s Gunnison ISR copper mine coming to life

Excelsior Mining says it has successfully commenced mining operations at its Gunnison in-situ recovery copper project in southern Arizona, USA.

Following a commissioning program that had been ongoing for several weeks, regulatory approval to commence mining operations through the injection of acid was recently received from the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Delivery of mining fluids to the copper orebody has since commenced with fluids now circulating through a closed-loop system until the concentration of copper held in solution meets sufficient grade to be treated through the Johnson Camp processing facilities. This will lead to extraction of copper and the production of cathode sheets.

Excelsior said first copper cathode sales were expected in the March quarter.

Stephen Twyerould, President & CEO, said: “Following on the heels of the successful completion of the construction phase, mining operations at the Gunnison copper project are now underway. We remain absolutely confident in our capacity to deliver low-cost copper production while maintaining our commitment to safety and the environment.”

Mark J Morabito, Excelsior’s Chairman, said he and the board looked forward to continuing the ramp up of existing operations in 2020 and laying the groundwork for future expansion to Gunnison’s full production capacity of 125 million pounds (56,999 t) of production per year.

Gunnison’s initial capital cost was estimated at $49 million, with the mine expected to produce 2,200 MIb of copper cathode over a 24-year life.

Taseko Mines’s Florence ISR trial copper mine reaches commercial level ahead of time

Taseko Mines says it has reached “commercial grade levels” at its Florence in-situ copper test mine in Arizona, USA, less than six months after well field operations commenced.

The company cannot yet say it is a ‘commercial mine’, but it is well on the way to being able to with permits amendment applications to transfer the test facility into a commercial operation being delivered and financing arrangements being made.

On the former, Taseko said the Aquifer Protection Permit (APP) amendment application for Florence was now on its way to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ). “The APP is one of two key permit amendments which are required for commercial production at the company’s Florence copper project,” Taseko said, adding that the permit amendment application for the Underground Injection Control Permit will be made to the US Environmental Protection Agency in the coming weeks.

Russell Hallbauer, Chief Executive Officer of Taseko, provided the update on operations at Florence. “This past week, after roughly six months of operating the test facility, the leach solution reached commercial grade levels, well in advance of our anticipated timeframe,” he said.

“Based on previous bench-scale testing, we expected it would take upwards of a year to reach target solution grade, so we are obviously extremely pleased to have achieved this milestone after such a short period of time.”

Hallbauer said the grade of the leach solution coming from Florence’s main recovery well is around 1,600 parts per million (ppm) of copper in solution and would be comparable to a typical open pit, low cost heap leach operation.

“The main difference between Florence Copper and other leach operations is that we have no mining costs associated with our in-situ leach process, making Florence Copper, when in commercial operation, one of the lowest cost operations globally,” he said.

The main focus of the Florence test facility, beyond ensuring the company achieves all the technical targets of its feasibility study, will be building the company’s on-the-ground operational experience to streamline the transition to commercial production, according to Halllbauer.

“Based on the knowledge we have gained in the last six months, the benefits of the two phase approach (production test facility followed by the commercial facility) will significantly improve the ramp up of the final commercial scale operation,” he said.

Stuart McDonald, President of Taseko, said financing for the commercial production facility is progressing with multiple options continuing to be pursued.

“We have initiated discussions with potential lenders and financing partners and we remain on track to have a plan formalised in the coming months,” he said.

“We now have the three key initiatives – technical, permitting and financing – all aligned for our project to be construction-ready in the first half of 2020.”

The commercial Florence mine is expected to produce copper at average operating costs of $1.10/Ib ($2,425/t), come with a capital cost intensity of $5,200/t of copper capacity and yield a pre-tax net present value of $920 million. It also has a slated copper production capacity of 85 MIb/y (38,555 t/y) and a 21-year mine life.

ALTA retains metallurgical innovation focus for 2019 event

The organisers of ALTA are gearing up to welcome the international metallurgical community to Perth, Western Australia, with the annual conference now just a month away.

ALTA has developed a reputation as a leading technical metallurgical-oriented event, attracting senior industry representatives from around the globe. The conference had a record attendance last year and is hoping to hit new heights in 2019.

ALTA 2019, to be held on May 18-25 at the Pan Pacific Perth, promises to continue the tradition of delivering high-quality technical content for professionals from the metallurgical and related sectors, the organisers said.

Conference Founder and Chair, Metallurgical Consultant Alan Taylor, said: “For the past 23 years, this event has provided a dynamic forum for sharing ideas, innovations, technologies and projects. Both ALTA and the industry have come a long way since our first conference in 1995, but our focus on the importance of metallurgical innovation remains the same.”

The emphasis of the program is practical rather than academic, and the themes running through the conference are the various aspects of technology and project development. “Each session has been carefully crafted to provide the best value for delegates and includes an insightful and authoritative keynote address,” the organisers said.

Taylor said: “Over many years, the conference has evolved to meet the demands of the industry. For example, in recent years, the program has been expanded to include the current hot topics of lithium processing, and in-situ recovery (ISR) and to reflect the rapidly developing field of battery metals.”

The event now incorporates separate dedicated sessions for nickel-cobalt-copper, uranium-rare earths, gold-precious metals, ISR and lithium processing.

The organisers said: “Panel discussions and Q&A are a major highlight of ALTA events, providing a unique opportunity for knowledge sharing, discussion and debate with highly-experienced professionals. Following the conference, detailed notes are published for the benefit of the wider industry and are provided via the ALTA Free Library.”

The signature nickel-cobalt-copper combined sessions are spread over three days, encompassing segments on battery metals, laterite processing, leaching process development and other key topics. The highlight of the sessions is the Pressure Acid Leaching (PAL) Forum and Panel Q&A, which acknowledges the 20th anniversary of the commissioning of the landmark Bulong, Cawse, and Murrin Murrin nickel-cobalt PAL projects, according to the organisers.

The uranium-REE sessions, organised in co-operation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (Austria), for the fifth year, are held on May 23. They feature a Developments in IX Forum and Panel Q&A.

ALTA has partnered with Curtin Gold Technology Group (Perth) for the Gold-PM sessions, also on May 23, with The Forum and Panel Q&A focussed on fit-for purpose leaching systems, ALTA’s organisers said.

On the final day of the conference, the ISR sessions will run in parallel with the lithium processing sessions, each offering its own panel discussion, “providing a rare opportunity for open discussion and debate”.

The ISR sessions are organised in partnership with CSIRO (Perth), which will lead the Forum and Panel discussion on Enhancing ISR Permeability. The Novel Lithium Processes Forum and Panel Q&A is already attracting international interest, according to organisers.

By popular demand, this year’s ALTA will also introduce additional flexibility for attendees by including single-day and corporate shared registrations options, the organisers said, on top of a short course program. The latter three practically-oriented short courses are presented by Alan Taylor, who draws from his extensive first-hand experience gained in 40-plus years with major engineering firms and as an independent consultant.

“The courses, a valuable introduction for newcomers and a useful refresher for old hands, typically attract a highly-international audience,” the organisers said, adding that the 2019 courses cover nickel-cobalt laterites, copper SX/EW and heap leaching of copper, gold, uranium and nickel.

The organisers said this year’s exhibition area has been expanded to meet increased demand, with the floor boasting Australia and international exhibitors.

Copper starts flowing at Taseko’s Florence ISR mine

Following receipt of all necessary state and federal operating permits, Taseko Mines has commenced well field operations at its Florence in-situ recovery copper project in central Arizona, US.

The company said injection and recovery systems had been fully ramped and, following an initial leaching period, leach solutions were flowing at expected levels with copper detected in solutions recovered from process sample wells.

Russell Hallbauer, President and CEO of Taseko, said: “Our preliminary tracer tests of the well field in the third (September) quarter 2018 exhibited robust percolation rates through the orebody. These results were as good as, and in some cases better than, modelled in the 2017 technical study. The rate at which the dissolved copper is increasing in the leach solution further confirms historical test work and technical data.”

Hallbauer said the company always takes a disciplined and measured approach with its capital projects, performing the necessary work to ensure projects are technically sound, that the company understands its capital commitments and that the environment is protected. “While it has taken us some time to get to this point with Florence, the additional time taken will ensure that the project generates strong returns for our shareholders and protects the environment to the highest standards for the local community,” he said.

Florence is expected to produce copper at average operating costs of $1.10/Ib ($2,425/t) of copper, come with a capital cost intensity of $5,200/t of copper capacity and yield a pre-tax net present value of $920 million. It also has a slated copper production capacity of 85 MIb/y (38,555 t/y) and a 21-year mine life.