Grand Canyon Mine On Hold Due to Poor Uranium Market, Litigation

Thursday, 07 Nov 2013 09:10 AM

By Michael Mullins

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A mine near the Grand Canyon National Park has been put on hold due to market conditions and potential legal issues associated with the dig.

Energy Fuels Resources Inc., a uranium mining company, was in the process of driving a shaft into the site when it recently suspended operations until December 2014 or until a ruling is issued in a federal case challenging the U.S. Forest Service's decision to allow the development of the Canyon Mine near Tusayan, the Associated Press reported.

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The goal of the dig, originally scheduled to end in 2015, was to extract 83,000 tons of ore that would then be used to produce 1.6 million pounds of processed uranium, also known as yellow cake. The uranium can be used to manufacture nuclear fuel once it's enriched.

Considering the circumstances, the company said it will now be reevaluating its timeframe, the AP noted.

In 2012, the Havasupai Tribe joined a coalition of environmental groups to sue the Forest Service claiming the 1986 environmental review that permitted mining on the site was outdated.

In addition to the litigation risk, the price of a pound of uranium is presently valued in the mid-$30 range, the lowest it has been for five years.

One organization that seems pleased with the company's decision to halt the mine operation is the environmental group the Sierra Club.

"Obviously this is an indication that it doesn't look good from an economic perspective," Sandy Bahr of the Sierra Club told the AP on Wednesday. "We obviously think that it has never looked good from an environmental perspective. It would be nice if they would also recognize that aspect of it and make the shutdown permanent."

The mining site is situated on a one million-acre parcel of forestland that as of January 2012 was designated off-limits to new miners. Prior to the off-limits designation, the company had shown that a sufficient quantity and quality of mineral resources could be developed on the site.

Energy Fuels Resources Inc. acquired the Canyon Mine last year from Denison Mines Corp., which began working on the site more than two decades ago in 1992. However, fluctuating markets put the operation on hold.

At the time the company stopped its dig, the shaft was about 300 feet deep. It reportedly needed to go 1,500 feet deep to reach the uranium ore, which would subsequently be shipped to a mill in Blanding, UT.

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