Energy Fuels (UUUU) Produces First Rare Earth Element Concentrate on Pilot Scale at its White Mesa Mill
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Energy Fuels Inc. (NYSE: UUUU) (TSX: EFR) is pleased to announce that the Company has produced a rare earth element ("REE") carbonate concentrate ("REE Concentrate") on a pilot scale at its 100% owned White Mesa Mill (the "Mill"), located near Blanding, Utah. This REE Concentrate was produced using existing infrastructure and technologies at the Mill from a sample of monazite sands from a North American source. Monazite sands are a valuable natural uranium ore, which also contain high concentrations of REEs. The Mill recovered the high concentrations of REEs in the monazite sands, in addition to the contained uranium which will be sold into the nuclear fuel industry. The REE Concentrate produced this weekend is of high purity and is ready to be sent to a separation plant and further downstream REE processing facility for final acceptance test work.
To the Company's knowledge, this is the first REE Concentrate produced from monazite sands at any significant quantity in North America in over twenty (20) years.
- The Company announced its plan to enter the REE Sector on April 13, 2020.
- In just over six (6) months, the Company has graduated from laboratory scale testing to producing pilot scale REE Concentrate from a one (1) tonne sample of monazite sands mined in North America.
- The Company possesses three (3) tonnes of additional samples of these monazite sands, which it intends to process in the next two months to further refine the process for recovering REEs and uranium from these types of ores.
- This pilot scale testing demonstrates the substantial steps the Company has taken in recent months to re-establish the ability of the U.S. to recover REEs from monazite sands using existing facilities and technologies.
- The Company continues negotiations with various parties to procure sources of monazite sands that can potentially be processed on a commercial scale at the Mill for the recovery of REE Concentrate and uranium.
- The Company is also in ongoing discussions on the possible sale of REE Concentrate produced at the Mill to an REE separation facility.
Mark S. Chalmers, Energy Fuels' President and CEO, stated:
"This past weekend, Energy Fuels achieved a major milestone in U.S. rare earth element production, when we successfully produced a REE Concentrate from a sample of monazite sands at our White Mesa Mill. Our Company literally accomplished REE production in months, because we utilized existing resources, infrastructure and technologies.
"While it is still early days, and we still have a lot of work to do, this is a proud moment, not just for me, but for the entire Energy Fuels team who has diligently worked on making REE Concentrate production a reality.
"The White Mesa Mill has a long history of recovering other metals along with uranium from uranium ores. Many of our ores from the Colorado Plateau contain vanadium, and the Mill has recovered over 54,000,000 pounds of vanadium as a co-product with uranium from these ores over the life of the Mill, making Energy Fuels the largest conventional vanadium producer in the U.S in recent years. Similarly, the Mill has recovered tantalum and niobium from uranium ores in the past. The recovery of REE Concentrate from monazite sands is no different in concept than the recovery of these other metals. As a result, the Mill is able to recover REEs along with uranium from these monazite sands using existing infrastructure and technologies at the Mill, with only minor routine process adjustments.
"This is the reason we believe we have the potential to enter commercial REE production more quickly and inexpensively than others. By using existing infrastructure and technologies at the Mill to recover the uranium and the REEs from monazite sands, we are able to avoid the years of permitting and development, along with the tens, or even hundreds, of millions of dollars of capital that others would be faced with. Assuming the Company is able to secure adequate quantities of monazite sands, we expect to be in a position to produce commercial quantities of REE Concentrate by early 2021.
"Successful testing at scale also demonstrates the importance of the White Mesa Mill in helping the U.S. re-establish its domestic REE supply chain. While the recovery and management of uranium and other radionuclides is a critical hurdle in REE production for most other facilities, it is a function the White Mesa Mill has performed successfully and responsibly for over 40 years.
We are particularly excited about the potential of our REE project in light of the President's October 1, 2020 Executive Order on Critical Minerals, which declared a state of emergency to address America's overreliance on critical minerals from foreign adversaries, including the REE's, uranium and vanadium that we have the ability to produce at the White Mesa Mill. Furthermore, our work with the U.S. Department of Energy and Penn State on recovering REE's from coal-based resources is complementary to the commercial REE initiatives discussed in this release.
"Energy Fuels will always, first and foremost, be a uranium producer. We have been the number one uranium miner in the U.S. since 2017, a position we intend to keep for many years to come. However, when other complementary business opportunities arise with the potential to create significant cash flow utilizing our existing facilities and workforce, we will always take a hard look at them with an eye toward building shareholder value.
"We look forward to providing further updates on our REE initiatives in the coming weeks and months as more milestones are reached."
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