Tag Archives: uranium

Cameco, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas explore small modular reactor development

Cameco, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas (GNF-A) have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to explore several areas of cooperation to advance the commercialisation and deployment of BWRX-300 small modular reactors (SMRs) in Canada and around the world.

A recent study completed by Ontario Power Generation, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, and Mining Innovation, Rehabilitation, and Applied Research Corporation said very small modular reactors (vSMRs) could provide clean, economic and reliable power and heat to remote northern mines and surrounding communities in Canada.

“Nuclear power will play a massive role in the global shift to zero-carbon energy, generating a lot of momentum for emerging SMR and advanced reactor technologies,” Cameco President and CEO, Tim Gitzel, said. “Cameco intends to be a go-to fuel supplier for these innovative reactors. We’re looking forward to working with GEH and GNF to see what opportunities might exist around their novel SMR design.”

Cameco supplies uranium, uranium refining and conversion services to the nuclear industry worldwide and, it says, is a leading manufacturer of fuel assemblies and reactor components for CANDU reactors, a Canadian pressurised heavy-water reactor design used to generate electric power.

Jay Wileman, President & CEO, GEH, said: “We are excited to explore opportunities with Cameco to advance the commercialisation of the BWRX-300. As we work to bring the world’s first grid-scale SMR to Canada we will continue to identify strategic partners whose capabilities will support the deployment of this game-changing technology in Canada and worldwide.”

Lisa McBride, Canada SMR Country Leader for GEH, said: “BWR and CANDU fuel types are closely related as both use similar cladding materials as well as ceramic, uranium dioxide fuel pellets so this type of collaboration offers the potential to extract significant synergies between the two fuel designs and manufacturing processes, enabling the expansion of Canada’s local fuel supply chain capabilities.”

The BWRX-300 (pictured) is a 300 MWe water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems that leverages the design and licensing basis of GEH’s US NRC-certified ESBWR (Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor). Through dramatic and innovative design simplification, GEH projects the BWRX-300 will require significantly less capital cost per MW when compared with other SMR designs.

By leveraging the existing ESBWR design certification, utilising the licensed and proven GNF2 fuel design, and incorporating proven components and supply chain expertise, GEH believes the BWRX-300 can become the lowest-risk, most cost-competitive and quickest to market SMR.

This MoU is not exclusive and does not preclude GEH or Cameco from pursuing similar arrangements with other companies in the nuclear energy sector, the companies said.

Orano, Ideon deploy cosmic-ray muon detector at McLean Lake uranium site

Canada-based Earth ‘X-ray’ start-up, Ideon Technologies, and Orano Group, one of the world’s top uranium producers, have deployed the world’s first cosmic-ray muon detector for use in industry-standard boreholes.

The EUREKA-approved research and development project, which is receiving advisory services and funding support from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program, will run from now through the end of 2021 at McClean Lake, an Orano uranium site in northern Saskatchewan, Canada.

Ideon says it is a pioneer in muon tomography, providing X-ray-like imaging up to 1 km beneath the Earth’s surface. The Ideon discovery platform integrates proprietary muon detectors, imaging systems, inversion technologies, and artificial intelligence to produce high-resolution 3D density maps of underground targets, it explained.

Orano’s imaging target is a high-grade, compact uranium deposit located at 300 m depth. Multiple borehole muon detectors are deployed down a single drill hole in a connected sequence, delivering progressive imaging results throughout the survey.

Orano and Ideon have been collaborating since 2016, when Ideon deployed its first-generation, large-format detectors at the McArthur River uranium mine in Saskatchewan, successfully imaging a high-grade uranium deposit under 600 m of sandstone. Since then, Ideon has completed a 50 times miniaturisation effort to create the first industry-standard borehole (<100 mm diameter), low-power (<10 W continuous power consumption), zero-maintenance muon tomography detector suitable for operation in the extreme environmental conditions of mineral exploration sites around the world, the company explained.

“We’re excited to move forward on this project with Ideon because we expect it to transform the very nature of how we explore,” Hervé Toubon, Research & Development and Innovation Director at Orano Mining, said. “Global uranium demand is projected to grow by up to 40% by 2025 and it is virtually impossible for us to detect high-grade deposits at depth using traditional geophysical exploration techniques. The subsurface intelligence we gain with muon tomography gives us the ability to accurately locate those anomalies while reducing the need for drilling and lowering our overall environmental impact. That value proposition is hard to beat.”

Gary Agnew, CEO at Ideon, said: “This deployment milestone is more than a decade in the making. We’ve spent seven years doing commercial trials in partnership with the mining industry and several years of system design and development, de-risking, and prototyping in the lab. Orano has been there right along with us for much of that journey, leading the way as a customer-driven innovator in the global energy transition. We are grateful for their enthusiasm, flexibility, trust, and willingness to break new ground with us.”

In addition to muon tomography models, Ideon will work with Orano to develop joint inversions with existing drill data and other geophysical datasets.

Ideon is currently implementing an exclusive early access program for borehole muon tomography. The company claims it is the only straight-line subsurface imaging technology available today, delivering the highest available resolution along with precise anomaly location information. Muon tomography uses a passive and free energy source (cosmic rays from space), offers the ability to image in noisy or conductive environments, and captures data continuously – improving imaging results over time, the company said.

NexGen marries ESG and financials in Arrow uranium project feasibility study

NexGen Energy CEO, Leigh Curyer, says the company’s Rook I uranium project has earnt its place as one of the “leading global resource projects with an elite ESG profile” after the publication of feasibility study results on the project’s Arrow deposit in the Athabasca Basin of Saskatchewan, Canada.

The study was completed jointly by consultants including Stantec, Wood and Roscoe Postle Associates (now part of SLR Consulting), with other technical inputs completed by sub-consultants.

Financial highlights from this study included an initial capital bill of C$1.3 billion ($1.03 billion) repaid with a post-tax net present value (8% discount) of C$3.47 billion based on a $50/Ib uranium price. From years 1-5 average annual production was due to come in at 28.8Mlb of uranium oxide, with average production over the life of mine of 10.7 years of 21.7 MIb/y.
The company laid out plans for a 1,300 t/d mill processing an average feed grade of 2.37% U3O8.

Listed within the “top five feasibility study outcomes” was enhanced environmental performance, with NexGen saying an optimised facilities layout had reduced the project footprint by around 20% and lowered on-site personnel transportation and ore haulage.

Optimised shaft sizing, water usage through advanced water recycling, and plant engineering reflected elite environmental standards, it added.

“With respect to the proposed shaft, mine workings and underground tailings management facility (UGTMF) locations, geotechnical and hydrogeological testing validated highly competent rock with no significant alteration, no major structures, and low hydraulic conductivity,” the company said.

The mine plan at Arrow was based on conventional long-hole stoping using the 239.6 MIb of declared reserves, the company said.

“Geotechnical studies during the feasibility study re-emphasised the conventional long-hole stoping mining method, including the use of longitudinal and transverse stopes, 30 m level spacing, and the nominal stope strike length of 12 m to 24 m,” it said. “This represents an excellent stope stability range for underground mining in the highly competent conditions.”

Given the competency and conditions of the underground environment, all waste streams from the process plant are planned to be stored underground in the UGTMF, while process water streams will be treated on surface in the optimised effluent treatment plant, NexGen said.

The underground workings will be accessed by two shafts, with the production shaft supporting personnel movements, materials, ore, waste and fresh air. The production shaft was increased to 8 m in diameter (from 6.5 m in diameter in the prefeasibility study (PFS)) to optimise radiation and ventilation management, ensuring the mine is elite from a safety perspective, the company said.

“Additionally, the production shaft will have divided compartments, ensuring that fresh air and personnel entering the mine, remain isolated from ore being skipped to surface,” it added.

The exhaust shaft was ultimately decreased to 5.5 m in diameter (from 6.5 m in diameter in the PFS) and will be used for exhaust air and emergency secondary egress, NexGen said.

Like some other projects in the region, shaft freezing will be required to a point to secure the underground project, NexGen confirmed.

In terms of processing, NexGen said extensive test work and engineering had determined that proven technology in a conventional uranium processing flowsheet is most effective to produce uranium oxide from the Arrow deposit.

The main components of the processing plant are ore sorting; grinding; leaching; liquid-solid separation via counter current decantation and clarification; solvent extraction; gypsum precipitation and washing; yellowcake precipitation and washing; yellowcake drying; calcining and packaging; and tailings preparation and paste tailings plant.

Metallurgical testing resulted in supporting and refining process design parameters, with the process recovery of 97.6% confirming the predictable nature of the processing flow sheet, it said.

“The feasibility study also confirmed that all processed waste streams can be stored in the UGTMF and no surface tailings facility is required,” NexGen said. “The UGTMF is a reflection of NexGen’s industry-leading environmental design approach, contributing to the significant reduction of the project’s surface footprint, and representing an opportunity to implement best practice of progressive closure of tailings facilities during the operational phase of the mine.”

A feasibility study drill program validated the geotechnical conditions and favourable conditions for the UGTMF, with the study also optimising the geotechnical design, size and sequencing of the UGTMF included in the mine plan.

The study test work demonstrated paste fill strength met or exceeded all requirements set in the feasibility study design for a potential paste-backfill to be used for underground stope stability.

In terms of the timeline to production, NexGen said it planned to submit its Environmental Impact Statement in the second half of this year, along with relevant licences.

New Metso Outotec Courier on-stream analyser could reduce gold losses

Metso Outotec is launching its next-generation Courier® 6G SL on-stream analyser for direct measurement of gold, platinum and other valuable metal concentrations from ore feed, concentrate, and tailings streams.

The new analyser enables accurate real-time elemental analysis measurement critical for establishing efficient process control to improve process stability and maximise recovery, it says.

It builds on the Outotec Courier 6X SL analyser with a more powerful X-ray tube and measurement channels optimised for direct on-line measurement of gold and other elements from calcium to uranium, the company says. This makes it particularly suitable for applications where gold is recovered with other metals such as silver or copper.

The system can measure up to 24 individual process streams – each with an individually adjustable measurement time – to ensure optimal measurement accuracy and sampling frequency in even the most complex polymetallic flotation circuits. It can also provide direct measurement of gold concentrations down to 0.2 g/t

The new next-generation on-stream analyser combines Wavelength Dispersive X-ray Fluorescence and Energy Dispersive X-ray Fluorescence technologies with a high-power X-ray tube for unparalleled measurement performance, Metso Outotec claims. It also features an automatic internal reference measurement for guaranteed stability under changing environmental conditions.

Lauri Veki, Metallurgist at Agnico Eagle’s Kittilä operation in Finland, said: “Agnico Eagle Kittilä has used the new on-stream analyser for flotation control and optimisation since October 2019. Measurement information provided by the Courier 6G SL has enabled more efficient control of the pre-flotation circuit and helped to reduce gold losses.”

Boss looks for opex, production boost at Honeymoon uranium project with NIMCIX transition

Boss Resources has announced plans to evaluate the replacement of the existing solvent extraction (SX) columns on the Honeymoon uranium mine site, in South Australia, with new NIMCIX columns.

Initial results from test work indicate the potential for this to increase production profile and reduce operating costs for the project, Boss said.

The NIMCIX contactor is a continuous ion exchange (IX) column developed by Mintek (then the National Institute for Metallurgy – NIM) during the uranium boom of the 1970s and 1980s. A notable breakthrough, it enabled uranium to be recovered from unclarified solutions, according to Mintek.

Following a January 2020 feasibility study on Honeymoon, the company has embarked on technical optimisation studies which included completing NIMCIX IX process detail design and testing. In August, cost saving results from a GR Engineering review relating to reduced site power demand and transmission line upgrade costs were announced.

These savings, along with the NIMCIX results have incentivised Boss to initiate an Enhanced Feasibility Study (EFS) to incorporate the potentially significant enhancements identified, it said.

Boss’s restart and expansion plans have been split into separate stages, of which Stage 1 and 2 are presented as the base case for the Honeymoon feasibility study, showing that production can recommence within a 12-month period. Stage 1 development focused on the restart of the existing SX plant, which has a nameplate capacity of 880,000 lb/y U3O8-equivalent. Stage 2 is an expansion strategy that will increase production to 2 Mlb/y U3O8-equivalent and involves the construction of a new IX circuit.

Additional work has now been completed by Boss, ANSTO and GR Engineering examining the potential to replace the existing SX columns on site with new NIMCIX columns.

Boss said: “The results show that it is entirely possible to eliminate the envisaged Stage 1 and incorporate a NIMCIX system with the following stipulations:

  • “The flow rate through the new NIMCIX columns must be equivalent to or higher than the SX system;
  • “The lead time to commissioning should not be significantly impacted;
  • “The overall project capital expenditure intensity should not be impacted; and
  • “As much of the current SX structural and process infrastructure as possible to be re-used.”

The conclusion of this review is that these criteria are achievable and highlighted the potential for lower unit operating cost and higher production rates over the life of mine, according to Boss.

Additional potential benefits of the conversion include:

  • Significantly higher throughput through the plant during Stage 1 and beyond;
  • Improved safety outcomes through the elimination of combustible solvents in process;
  • Improved environmental outcomes through elimination of the potential for organic entrainment to the wellfield; and
  • Simplification of the process through standardisation of uranium extraction technology.

“The company now plans to incorporate both the IX Process Optimisations announced previously and the pure NIMCIX adoption into an EFS level estimate for the Honeymoon uranium project restart to assess the economic impacts of these changes,” it said.

It has re-engaged GR Engineering Services as the engineering and lead study consultant for its EFS leveraging on the recently completed feasibility study completed in January 2020.

“Through the EFS, Boss aspires to increase the ramp up production schedule and nameplate capacity of Honeymoon through the adoption of a wholly IX (NIMCIX) system with the first stage of production ramp up delivered within the original 12-month delivery timeline from an investment decision,” it said.

Vimy senses Angulari gold-uranium project boost following TOMRA XRT trial

Ore sorting test work from TOMRA Sorting Australia has Vimy Resources thinking about higher grades, lower capital and operating costs, and the production of precious metals at its majority-owned Angulari uranium-gold deposit in Australia’s Northern Territory.

The ASX-listed company, which has defined an inferred mineral resource estimate of 26 Mlbs of U3O8 (0.91 Mt at 1.3% U3O8) at Angulari, already thought the deposit, part of the Alligator River project, had potential to fit into the first quartile of the global uranium cost curve, but now it has eyes on further improving its cost position.

An ore sorting proof of concept trial conducted by TOMRA using its COM X-ray Transmission Tertiary system factored in a 41.5 kg sample that was obtained from mineralised material collected from drill core that Cameco Australia drilled in 2011 and 2016.

The trial on this material saw the uranium concentrate grade increase from 1.2% to 2% U3O8 (70% increase) with high U3O8 recovery. Alongside this, the sample gold concentrate grade increased from 0.7 g/t to 1.1 g/t (47% increase). On the latter gold work, Vimy said: “This warrants further investigation given no gold processing or recovery test work has been undertaken to date.”

The test work also showed that gold mineralisation is spatially coincident with the uranium mineral resource within the sample.

Some 13.5 kg of this 41.5 kg sample was not sorted due to the high uranium grade, which provides additional upside in future trials, Vimy noted. Other potential by-products were also identified, including platinum and palladium.

All of this bodes well for cutting the capital and operating costs that Vimy was unable to disclose to investors as part of its December 2018 scoping study on the project.

A higher feed grade from ore sorting would likely result in lower operating costs, the company said.

Meanwhile, smaller hydrometallurgical plant circuits would likely be required for the same level of production. Coupled with a potential reduction in acid-consuming phases in the concentrate, ore sorting has the potential to lower reagents (and water) usage and costs on a per lb U3O8 produced basis, noting that expected reagent use is already low, Vimy said.

“A smaller plant would result in a lower overall disturbance footprint with commensurate approvals and capital cost benefits,” it added.

Mike Young, CEO of Vimy, said, “The results of the TOMRA ore sorting trial at the Alligator River project’s Angularli deposit have exceeded our expectations. The high-grade nature of the deposit, coupled with the ore sorting outcomes, enhances the prospect of Angularli’s potential future development as a low-cost uranium operation.

“Our next step is to progress the upgrade trials and investigate the potential for the recovery of high value by-products associated with the uranium mineralisation at the Angularli deposit.”

The Angularli deposit is located in the King River-Wellington Range tenement group which is managed in a joint venture (Vimy 79%: Rio Tinto 21%) with Rio Tinto Exploration Pty Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rio Tinto Ltd.

GR Engineering comes up with cost savings at Boss’ Honeymoon uranium project

GR Engineering Services has reviewed the latest technical optimisation studies related to the restart of the Honeymoon uranium mine, in South Australia, and come up with capital expenditure savings of $6.3 million for owner Boss Resources.

Following the release of the feasibility study in January 2020, Boss embarked on technical optimisation studies which included completion of an identified ion exchange (IX) process detail design and testing, undertaken with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).

The January feasibility study highlighted a capital expenditure of $63.2 million (excluding offsite power provider upgrades) to build the two-stage mine. Stage 1 consisted of refurbishing the existing solvent extraction plant with process improvement to a capacity of 880,000 Ib/y of U308 equivalent, while Stage 2 involved adding an IX circuit to achieve annual production of 2 Mlb/y. This also estimated an average all-in cost of $32.3/lb U308 over the life of mine.

The IX process optimisation program with ANSTO aimed to remove the requirement for solution heating in the elution of uranium from the IX resin. Power input to the elution process necessitated upgrades to the transmission line to service Honeymoon with grid power from Broken Hill, 80 km southeast of the mine.

Boss devised a series of tests in consultation with ANSTO to study the effect of ambient temperature on both the conversion and elution performance, with the conversion work indicating an ambient temperature process could achieve the required conversion performance within the timeframe in the process design.

Furthermore, a 45% reduction in reagent concentration in the conversion process had a negligible effect on conversion performance and offered significant reagent savings, Boss noted.

Test work on the elution process was also successful, the company said. “While there is a small difference in the eluant requirement to achieve complete elution of the resin, there is sufficient capacity in the elution circuit as designed to achieve this without impacting the downstream processes, while facilitating significant energy savings,” it explained.

The remainder of the program aimed to provide additional information to allow detailed equipment design for IX adsorption and elution processes. As a result of this work, Boss made additional changes to the resin sulphation and regeneration processes, which could represent additional cost savings.

Boss commissioned GR Engineering to evaluate the cost implications of the above work on the feasibility study results, initially on a +/- 25% basis, with initial results confirming a capital expenditure reduction of $6.3 million owing to the reduction in heating and insulation requirements for the elution circuit and reagent make up systems, and the reduced transmission line upgrade costs.

Additionally, the engineering company identified the reduction in electricity costs alone represented an operating cost saving of $2.4 million/y, equating to $1.22/lb U308 equivalent.

GR Engineering is now undertaking an evaluation of the operating cost implications of these changes in Stage 2 operations over the life of the overall operation considered in the feasibility study.

“Boss designed the feasibility study to fast-track production from Honeymoon’s existing solvent extraction plant within a 12-month period, following a decision to mine, to capitalise on any improved market fundamentals,” the company said.

It plans to increase production to 2 Mlb/y U308 equivalent through the addition of the IX plant, which will take around 20 months to design, construct and commission.

Boss Resources Managing Director and CEO, Duncan Craib, said: “Boss continues to work on opportunities to optimise Honeymoon as a first-mover uranium restart operation – this outstanding IX test work result is one example.

“We will continue working towards net present value accretive technical advancements and revising estimates contained within the January 2020 feasibility study, strengthening Honeymoon’s potential to be one of the lowest cost uranium producers globally.”

Following these initial results, Boss plans to incorporate these optimisations into a revised feasibility study level estimate for the Honeymoon restart which will also incorporate other initiatives including the conversion of the current solvent extraction infrastructure to a NIMCIX IX system, Boss said.

In parallel, Boss’s exploration team is completing a comprehensive desktop review of the extensive historical exploration database information to define new uranium exploration targets.

“With financial support from the South Australian government to utilise innovative uranium geophysical exploration techniques, exploration is focusing on expansions to known uranium discoveries to increase Honeymoon’s production profile distal to existing JORC mineral resources (total 71.6 Mlb U308),” the company said.

It is envisaged that these new mineralised target areas will form the basis of a study to assess and define Stage 3 production ramp up to produce more than 3 Mlb/y U308 equivalent, Boss said.

BHP Olympic Dam looks for value in SciDev wastewater treatment solution

SciDev has received a trial purchase order for its MaxiFlox chemistry from BHP’s Olympic Dam polymetallic mine, in South Australia, which will see the company transfer its waste processing expertise to the production side, Lewis Utting says.

Australia’s largest copper operation, Olympic Dam operates a fully integrated processing facility from ore to metal.

The SciDev trial, which includes an initial A$1 million ($717,526) purchase order for the MaxiFlox chemistry, reflecting about three months of consumption, is expected to start by the end of the year and last around six months. It will focus on the use of SciDev’s chemistries in the hydromet and concentrator sections of the processing plant, SciDev said.

SciDev’s South Australia-based staff will be on site to deliver the associated professional services.

SciDev Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Lewis Utting, said the order represented a significant opportunity for SciDev.

“The opportunity to transfer our chemistry and knowhow from the waste processing side directly to the production side of a mining operation reflects the potential for the company’s bespoke chemistries,” he said.

The Olympic Dam mine produced 171,600 t of copper cathode in the year to June 30, 2020, 7% higher than the same period a year earlier, alongside 145,972 oz of refined gold, 984,000 oz of silver and 3,678 t of uranium (all of which was from a concentrate).

MaxiFlox, meanwhile, is specifically designed for the treatment of wastewater across several industries, SciDev says. Products in the MaxiFlox range are supplied in both liquid and powder form across an extensive range of molecular weights and charge densities to solve industrial challenges.

The MaxiFlox chemistries are also being used in the tailings thickener at the Las Bambas copper mine, in Peru, following a trial purchase order from mine owner MMG.

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.

NRW Holdings to upgrade Olympic Dam airport

NRW Holdings’ wholly-owned subsidiary, NRW Contracting, has been awarded an airport upgrade contract with BHP at its Olympic Dam copper-gold-uranium project, in South Australia.

The scope of works includes two separable portions:

  • Airside works – includes bulk earthworks, pavement construction and drainage works for the construction of a new 1,860 m long runway and refurbishment of the existing taxiway and extension of the apron areas; and
  • Landside works – includes reinforced concrete works, structural steel and modular structures and all services for the upgrade of the existing terminal building and the surrounding infrastructure.

The new contract value is circa-A$48 million ($28 million) and is expected to have a duration of around 37 weeks with works commencing in late March.

The project will have an expected peak workforce of around 140 (including subcontractors), according to the company.

NRW’s CEO and Managing Director, Jules Pemberton, said: “NRW is delighted to be awarded this contract at Olympic Dam following the successful acquisition of the BGC Contracting business.

“NRW has a long history with BHP in their iron ore, coal and nickel divisions but this contract marks the first project for the copper operations. I look forward to the safe and successful execution of the works.”