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Uranium Mining in Wyoming
With emerging projects such as TerraPower's US$4 billion nuclear reactor, Wyoming is the energy capital of the US — and potentially also a hotspot for eco-friendly uranium mining and exploration.
As we approach the 2030 " point of no return " for climate change, clean energy initiatives are more crucial than they've ever been.
Nuclear power has proved very compelling in this regard, and as demand for nuclear energy steadily increases, so too does demand for uranium — a material essential for nuclear power generation.
At the time of writing, there were 436 operable reactors worldwide, providing 10 percent of the world's electricity. And with about 60 reactors currently under construction worldwide, the outlook for the nuclear energy sector is a positive one. One that is arguably very promising for the west is the Bill Gates-founded TerraPower's US$4 billion advanced reactor in Kemmerer, Wyoming.
Constructed near a retiring coal plant , the Natrium reactor may well offer a window into Wyoming's future. For decades, Wyoming was the largest net energy provider in the US , while also producing over 40 percent of the nation's coal. However, the global pivot to sustainable power has not been kind to Wyoming's coal sector — the past several years have been some of the most dismal in recent history for the mineral.
That would threaten Wyoming's position as a major energy supplier if not for one small detail. Wyoming already has the potential to pivot to nuclear power. Since the 1950s, Wyoming has produced more than a quarter of a billion pounds of yellowcake uranium.
Factor in that Wyoming also has the largest-known uranium reserves of any state in the country, and it's well positioned to be a national — possibly even international — leader in uranium production.
Rich history, rich deposits
To truly understand Wyoming's potential as a producer of uranium, one must first examine its history.
The metal was first discovered in Wyoming in the tailings of an abandoned silver mine in 1918, but at the time, there was no market for the material.
It wasn't until three decades later that the market finally arrived. At that time, the US Atomic Energy Commission — an agency founded in 1946 to oversee the development of atomic science and technology — issued a series of proclamations around procurement, pricing, discovery and incentives around uranium mining.
During the ensuing uranium rush, prospector Neil McNeice found abundant stores of the mineral in the Gas Hills region of Central Wyoming, and commercial mining of uranium in Wyoming began in the 1950s . For the next decade, Wyoming's uranium production was almost entirely centered in the Gas Hills region and the nearby Shirley Basin. Then, in the 1970s, massive deposits of the mineral were discovered — almost fittingly — in the Powder River Basin, at that time the heart of the state's coal production.
Over the course of its history, Wyoming's uranium mining has produced the equivalent of 5.9 billion barrels of oil in energy.
It wasn't all smooth sailing for Wyoming's uranium sector, though. Just as the state's coal industry is now being hammered by the shift to green energy, uranium production saw a large downturn in 1980 due to uranium's massive drop in price. Jeffrey City, at the time a uranium-mining boom town, even lost 95 percent of its population in just three years.
The uranium market in Wyoming has never fully recovered from that plummet in price. However, experts remain optimistic about Wyoming's future as a uranium producer — and not solely because of the rallying spot price .
"I think Wyoming will stand to regain its leading position in uranium production going forward and I think all that's going to take is a little bit (of) improvement in uranium price," Scott Melbye explained in a 2022 interview . Melbye is the executive vice president of Uranium Energy (NYSEAMERICAN: UEC ) and president of the Uranium Producers of America.
The price of uranium has risen over the last few years, even topping US$63 per pound in April 2022.
The right infrastructure, the right place, the right time
There's another factor that plays just as much of a part in the region's potential. Given that much of Wyoming's uranium can be found in and around the sites of former coal mines, uranium projects have access to readily available infrastructure, reducing construction costs and time. Projects such as TerraPower's plant will only further drive investment into Wyoming's uranium sector.
Currently, Wyoming is home to a number of major uranium operations including Ur-Energy’s (NYSEAMERICAN: URG ,TSX:URE) Lost Creek in-situ recovery (ISR) facility and Cameco's (TSX: CCO ,NYSE:CCJ) Smith-Ranch Highland operation, although the latter is currently on care and maintenance. Energy Fuels (TSX: EFR ,NYSEAMERICAN:UUUU) owns both Nichols Ranch, a mine and plant that are on standby in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, and Sheep Mountain, a fully permitted project that will encompass a mine and plant in Wyoming's Green Mountain/Crooks Gap.
Uranium Energy has its Wyoming Asset Hub and Spoke ISR project, which is made up of assets it acquired from Uranium One in 2021. The assets acquired include the Irigaray, Christensen Ranch, Moore Ranch, Reno Creek, Ludeman, Allemand-Ross, Barge and the Jab/West Jab project areas. Total measured and indicated resources across all of these assets total 66.2 million pounds of U3O8.
There are a number of other significant deposits and projects in various stages of discovery and development throughout the state as well.
GTI Energy (ASX:GTR,OTC Pink:GTRIF) is one of the major players in that regard. Its Great Divide Basin prospects, including its Thor project, have a combined area of 22,000 acres and an inferred mineral resource of 1.66 million pounds of U3O8. GTI's 12,000 acre Lo Herma project, meanwhile, is on track for a maiden resource estimate in early Q3 2023. GTI also acquired 13,800 additional acres of claims at Green Mountain, adjacent to its existing Great Divide Basin projects. The Green Mountain project contains a number of uranium-mineralised roll fronts hosted in the Battle Springs Formation. It lies close to several major deposits held by Energy Fuels and Uranium Energy.
Peninsula Energy (ASX: PEN ,OTCQB:PENMF) could be another promising investment opportunity. The company is uniquely placed in that it owns the Lance uranium project, which includes a major ISR production facility that commenced operations in 2015. The company is currently transitioning the facility to restart production using a new ISR method, an initiative slated to be completed by mid-year 2023.
The majority, if not all, current operable and licensed uranium projects in Wyoming employ the ISR method, and for good reason. ISR is a proven approach — in fact, it was first used in the Gas Hills and Shirley Basin uranium districts in the early 1960s .
ISR mining results in minimal waste, as the typically alkaline solution used is non-toxic. It also has a minimal carbon footprint. More importantly, ISR requires a considerably lower upfront capital investment — the technology utilised in ISR mining costs significantly less than even a modest open-pit operation.
ISR is a method in which either an alkaline or acidic solution is injected into the deposit being mined. In Wyoming, the solution is most commonly alkaline. Once the solution has leached the uranium out of the surrounding rock, it’s pumped to the surface. This method is significantly cleaner and has a lower environmental impact when compared to both open-pit and underground mining.
GTI's Thor uranium project is Wyoming’s newest potential ISR project. The company has drilled approximately 15,000 metres at Thor to date, aimed at confirming the grade and tenor of uranium mineralisation and ultimately supporting the future definition of an economic ISR uranium resource.
Results announced in late March 2022 from the drill program exceeded expectations for economic ISR uranium recovery. Commenting on the drill results, GTI executive director Bruce Lane said, "I'm excited by the fact that this first, wide spaced, drill program covered less than 20 percent of GTI's total land holding in the Great Divide Basin with most of our ground still to be tested."
ISR mining is a more cost-effective, environmentally friendly option for uranium production, and Wyoming may well be the perfect region for the technique. The state's mining-friendly government, extensive pre-existing infrastructure and massive uranium deposits make it a promising investment target. And together, they may secure the state's position in a nuclear energy-focused future.
This INNSpired article is sponsored by GTI Resources (ASX:GTROTC Pink:GTRIF) . This INNSpired article provides information which was sourced by the Investing News Network (INN) and approved by GTI Resources in order to help investors learn more about the company. GTI Resources is a client of INN. The company’s campaign fees pay for INN to create and update this INNSpired article.
This INNSpired article was written according to INN editorial standards to educate investors.
INN does not provide investment advice and the information on this profile should not be considered a recommendation to buy or sell any security. INN does not endorse or recommend the business, products, services or securities of any company profiled.
The information contained here is for information purposes only and is not to be construed as an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of securities. Readers should conduct their own research for all information publicly available concerning the company. Prior to making any investment decision, it is recommended that readers consult directly with GTI Resources and seek advice from a qualified investment advisor.
Positioning for the Uranium Supply Chain through Highly Prospective ISR Projects
Uranium is the main fuel for nuclear reactors. Today, 21 of the 57 new nuclear reactors under construction globally are being built in China. In 2021, billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates announced plans to build a US$4-billion, 345-megawatt nuclear power plant facility in Wyoming, USA. The plant called a Natrium reactor — which is an old term for sodium (salt) –– will use uranium to heat liquid sodium to around 900 degrees fahrenheit (molten salt) to create steam that powers the turbines to generate electricity. The planned plant is supported by Wyoming's Governor Mark Gordon, who believes nuclear plants could provide a market for large reserves of radioactive uranium ore in the state. TerraPower, co-founded by Bill Gates, has partnered with GE-Hitachi and Warren Buffet’s Rocky Mountain Power to fully build the plant.
On March 21, 2023, the US Dept of Energy (DOE) published a “ Liftoff Report ” advocating a rapid nuclear power build-out plan, even more aggressive than China’s plan to add 13GW annually. The DOE advocates deploying another 200GW of nuclear by 2050 which would drive a massive expansion in demand for Uranium.
Wyoming has the largest uranium reserves of all the US states and is the home of in-situ recovery (ISR) uranium mining, with experimental ISR mining during the early 1960s and commercial ISR mining starting in 1974. The state is an energy powerhouse in the US, second only to Texas in energy production and accounting for more than 80 percent of uranium production in the US. It has a production history that dates back to the late 1940s. With the price of uranium hitting a nine-year high in 2020, many analysts believe the price will remain on the higher end for years to come.
Given these developments, companies exploring for and developing uranium in Wyoming may present an exciting opportunity for investors.GTI Energy (ASX: GTR , OTCQB:GTRIF) is a mineral exploration company focused on developing a portfolio of attractive uranium projects in the United States. The company now boasts approximately 42,000 acres in the prolific Great Divide and Powder River Basins, which are low-cost ISR uranium-producing districts within 100 miles of each other.
In 2022, the company completed an additional 103 mud rotary exploration drill holes to increase the total trend length for GTI’s projects in the Great Divide Basin to 7.5 miles.
The company has also commenced work at its Green Mountain ISR uranium project next to Rio Tinto’s (ASX: RIO ) uranium deposits. GTI has historical drill data confirming the presence of uranium mineralised roll fronts on the properties. In July 2023, the company announced that its aerial geophysics survey data collection phase had been completed using a twin-engine aircraft.
The company is led by a highly experienced management and exploration team with an extensive track record in the mineral exploration industry. GTI’s operational team has proven development and engineering expertise with a history of success in ISR uranium deposit discovery in Wyoming.
In November 2021, the company announced the strategic acquisition of Branka Minerals. The acquisition resulted in GTI controlling the largest non-US or Canadian-owned uranium exploration landholding in the Great Divide Basin, with approximately 21,000 acres. The landholding included underexplored and highly prospective sandstone-hosted uranium properties which are the company’s Wyoming projects today. This holding then grew with the purchase of the 13,800-acre Green Mountain project in 2022.
The company further expanded its ISR uranium portfolio in 2023 by acquiring the Lo Herma Project in Wyoming’s prolific Powder River Basin uranium district. The newly staked 8,000 acres of claims are located within 16 kilometers of Cameco’s Smith Ranch-Highland ISR uranium production plant – the largest production site in Wyoming.
GTI Energy leverages the strategic positioning of its Wyoming projects, which are located near Ur Energy’s (TSX: URE ,NYSE:URG) Lost Creek ISR production plant and the now-rehabilitated historic Rio Tinto Kennecott Sweetwater Mill. The Lost Creek plant is claimed by Ur Energy to be the lowest-cost ISR uranium production plant outside of Kazakhstan.
GTI is committed to strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives to support the clean energy transition. In November 2021, the company adopted an internationally recognized Environmental, Social and Governance Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics framework, with 21 core metrics and disclosures.In December 2021, GTI Energy announced it would be transitioning to carbon-neutral operations. The company has applied for a Climate Active Certification
GTI Energy is positioned for growth with the pursuit of ISR mining on its Wyoming projects, presenting an opportunity for low operating expenses and capital expenditures with low environmental impact compared to conventional mining. ISR mining supports the company’s goal of low-impact mining and carbon neutrality on its Wyoming projects.In 2021, the company completed field exploration on its Henry Mountains project in Utah. In the same year, GTI Energy also began a 15,000-meter drill program on its Wyoming projects, concluding the program in early 2022. The drilling confirmed that the targeted ISR-amenable uranium mineralization was present at the Thor project. In 2022, the company completed an additional 103 mud rotary exploration drill holes to increase the total trend length for GTI’s projects in the Basin to 7.5 miles.
- GTI Energy owns multiple promising assets in Wyoming’s prolific and in-situ recovery (ISR) uranium-producing Great Divide and Powder River Basins. Wyoming is the leading US uranium production state and is “uranium-friendly”.
- GTI’s Great Divide Basin projects are strategically located near Ur Energy’s (TSX:URE,NYSE: URG ) Lost Creek ISR production plant which has re-commenced production.
- In late February 2023, GTI staked 8,000 acres of ground (the Lo Herma project) in Wyoming within 16 kilometers of Cameco’s $16-billion ISR uranium plant (the largest production site in Wyoming) and 80 kilometers of five permitted ISR uranium production facilities, including Peninsula Energy’s (ASX: PEN ) Lance Project – due to recommence production in late 2024.
- Maiden uranium resource and updated exploration target at the Lo Herma ISR project delivered an inferred mineral resource estimate of 5.71 Mlbs uranium oxide at an average 630 ppm plus an exploration target of an additional 5.87 to 10.26 Mlbs potential at average grade of 500 to 700 ppm.
- Updated total resources across its Wyoming projects of 7.37 Mlbs plus an exploration target of an additional 11.97 to 19.79 Mlbs potential at average grade of 500 – 700 ppm.
- In early 2022, the company completed a further 103 mud rotary exploration drill holes to increase the total trend length for GTI’s projects in the Great Divide Basin to 7.5 miles.
- GTI acquired a 1,400 drill hole data set over Lo Herma with a replacement value of AU$15 million. The 161,000 meters of drilling represents about seven times as many holes that GTI has drilled in Wyoming to date.
- GTI aims to utilize ISR mining at its Wyoming projects, which offers lower environmental impact, lower opex and capex than conventional mining.
- GTI Energy has a highly experienced exploration team with a history of successful uranium discovery in Wyoming.