Uranium miners are looking to capitalise on rising demand by either giving those once-unprofitable operations a chance to fill a supply gap or sniffing out new discoveries.


There’s still some buoyancy in the uranium market despite prices cooling off from a recent bull run earlier this year.

A rally in the price of the energy source kicked into gear in January and hit above US$100 per pound, the highest since 2008, spurring the revival of left-for-dead uranium mines after an extremely long, dark period for the industry in the wake of Fukushima more than a decade ago.

Now, with renewed interest in nuclear power as governments scramble to reach emission targets and an estimated multi-hundred-million-pound deficit through to 2040 looming overhead, uranium projects across the US are getting a new lease on life.

Uranium Energy Corp (UEC), the fastest growing supplier of yellowcake in the US, is set to reboot its past-producing and fully permitted Christensen Ranch in-situ recovery (ISR) project in Wyoming this August after operations were placed on standby in 2018.

Another major US producer, Energy Fuels Inc, has initiated plans to restart operations in Arizona and Utah, claiming “now is the time to start producing uranium at a profit” during a presentation at Red Cloud’s Pre-PDAC 2024 event.

The company is also expected to start production at two additional uranium mines in Colorado (Whirlwind) and Wyoming (Nicholas Ranch) this year, which could see the company’s output increase to more than 2Mlb of U3O8 per year by 2025.


Peninsula Energy dusts off idled capacity

Companies on the smaller end of town have also responded to the uptick in pricing and favourable supply and demand dynamics.

Peninsula Energy (ASX:PEN) is dusting off an idled mine in Wyoming following a $60m capital raising to investors last November.

The $253.31m market cap stock is carrying out plant and wellfield construction at the Lance project – one of the largest ISR projects in the US – with a schedule to restart production in late 2024.

Initially constructed as a satellite facility in 2015, Lance was placed on care and maintenance status in 2019 following weak uranium market conditions and lower than expected recoveries.

It is now backed by six offtake contracts covering 40% of production with hopes to deliver 6Mlbs between 2025 and 2033.


Resurgence for America’s domestic mining industry

According to GTI Energy’s (ASX:GTR) Bruce Lane, owner of the Lo Herma in-situ recovery uranium project in Wyoming, the reopening of mines marks a resurgence for America’s domestic mining industry that has been in the process of terminal decline for the last 30 years.

“Over the last two years, there really has been no production at all in the US,” he says.

“That is only just now starting to turn around because uranium prices are high enough to incentivise existing asset owners to restart production and invest capital to start new mines.

“When we first started doing this back in 2018 the price was about $20 per pound, the spot price has gone up to over $100 per pound and another big factor here is that the US is trying to onshore uranium supply rather than get it from Russian aligned suppliers.

“The US is already the largest buyer in the world at 50 million pounds per year – it will go up once the small modular reactors come on and the country starts building new reactors to meet their COP 28 target, a tripling by 2050 which means 150 million pounds of uranium.

“As that occurs, the incentives for explorers and miners to start new projects will mean that they will be knocking on the door of those state permitting legislative bodies asking for a permit, and we know that Wyoming has a long history as does Texas.”


Wyoming quick to the punch

It is no surprise to see so many opportunities on the uranium front in Wyoming given the state is home to the largest known uranium reserves in the US and has historically ranked number one in uranium production nationally.

“The bulk of the permitted uranium mining facilities and in particular the in situ recovery uranium mining is in Wyoming,” Lane says.

“We’re still many months, potentially years, from some of that occurring and coming online but it is a very dramatic turn around.

“There’s been a lot of vocal support and quite a lot of lobbying at the Federal Government level to stimulate and support certain parts of the industry via the inflation Reduction Act for example.

“And an extremely strong and well supported lobby group has also managed to get through Congress a bill to ban Russian nuclear fuel, including uranium, from entering the US so there is unequivocal bipartisan support at a political level for nuclear power and the domestic mining industry.”

It has even clicked for the likes of Mr Microsoft aka Bill Gates and his company TerraPower which selected the sleepy town of Kemmerer in Wyoming as the location for a sodium-cooled nuclear reactor demonstration project.

The company entered into an MoU with UEC to explore the potential supply of uranium for its 345MW ‘Natrium reactor’, which it says will be able to power 345,000 homes once operations kick off within a decade.

TerraPower believes the US supply chain will be ready to support the rollout of another five more reactors of the same design in Wyoming and Utah by 2035.


ASX explorers in Wyoming

GTR’s Lo Herma deposit is in a uranium hotspot, ~16km from the US’s largest ISR U3O8 production plant at Cameco’s Smith Ranch-Hyland, and ~95km from UEC’s Irigaray & Energy Fuels’ Reno Creek.

The Powder River Basin, the backbone of Wyoming uranium production since the 1970s, has extensive in-situ recovery (ISR) uranium production history with numerous defined ISR uranium resources, central processing plants (CPP) and satellite deposits.

Unlike conventional mining, ISR doesn’t require digging the ore out of in the ground. Minerals are recovered by dissolving them and pumping the pregnant solution to the surface, which means little surface disturbance and no tailings or waste rock generated.

The company has its sights set on follow-up drilling at Lo Herma with an estimated July start date as it works towards an updated mineral resource estimate and exploration target range.

This will then support near-term development of scoping study to demonstrate Lo Herma’s economic potential.


Uranium juniors in North America

Bordering Wyoming to the south is Utah where Uvre (ASX:UVA) has identified more than 30 occurrences of  uranium at surface at East Canyon during recent field mapping.

The project is in the Uravan mineral belt and Salt Wash ore producing districts of the Colorado Plateau in southeastern Utah, and in close proximity to several significant operations including Energy Fuels’ La Sal Complex mines and development projects.

Historical production in the region amounts to more than 85Mlb of uranium at an average grade of more than 0.13% U3O8 and more than 440Mlb of vanadium at an average grade of 1.25% V2O5.

Over in Canada’s North West Territories, White Cliff Minerals (ASX:WCN) has decided to digitise historical analogue datasets for the northern half of its Radium project.

So far, this work has paid off with the identification of multiple high-grade uranium and copper targets with samples returning assays up to 14.15% U3O8.

The Radium project includes the historical Eldorado uranium mine, the largest of its kind in Canada when it was mined between 1930 and 1960.

In Canada’s Athabasca Basin, home to the world’s highest grade uranium mines famously known as the host of Cameco’s McArthur River and Cigar Lake mines, is Basin Energy (ASX:BSN).

The explorer has just kicked off a second phase drill program at the Geikie project, having listed when uranium spot prices were around half of current levels in September 2022.

BSN managing director Pete Moorhouse told Stockhead the company is bullish on the potential benefits to flow from increased investment in uranium exploration.

“We were happy that we moved when we did and I think we’d waited another 12 months, we would never have been able to do a deal to get into that footprint of land that we’ve got,” BSN managing director Pete Moorhouse told Stockhead.

“There’s a difference between having land in the Athabasca and having quality land and I believe that the targets and the explorability of the landholding that we have is fantastic.

“Certainly the value of other opportunities has increased quite significantly listening to some of the deals which are being discussed.”


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At Stockhead we tell it like it is. While Basin Energy, Uvre, and White Cliff Minerals are Stockhead clients, they did not sponsor this article.