NYSE- and TSX-listed Energy Fuels expects to resume vanadium production at its White Mesa mill, in Utah, in mid-November, with saleable vanadium oxide ready by the end of December.
When production starts, Energy Fuels will be the newest vanadium producer worldwide and the only primary producer of vanadium oxide in North America.
Further, the company is preparing to conduct a test mining programme during the fourth quarter that selectively targets high-grade vanadium resources at its La Sal Complex of uranium/vanadium mines, in Utah, with the goal of increasing productivity and mined grades, while reducing mining costs for each pound of vanadium oxide and triuranium octoxide (uranium compound) discovered.
Energy Fuels will also conduct additional exploration and infill drilling at La Sal, with specific analysis for vanadium, which was not normally done in the past, with the goal of expanding and upgrading the vanadium resources.
The test mining programme is expected to take about six months to complete. The company may decide to continue mining beyond the planned campaign, should the programme be successful and vanadium prices remain strong.
Once production at White Mesa reaches a steady state, Energy Fuels expects to produce about 200 000 lb to 225 000 lb a month of vanadium oxide from the pond solutions, for 16 to 20 months.
While the mill has never attempted to commercially recover vanadium dissolved in the ponds, extensive on-site testwork indicates the project has a high probability of success.
Meanwhile, the company expects vanadium prices to continue to strengthen, noting that prices have risen by more than 150% in the past year, mostly owing to increases in demand from China, which is owing to new rebar standards that can only be achieved through increased use of vanadium.
Demand is also increasing globally owing to the commercialisation of vanadium batteries used in renewable energy generation. At September 23, the mid-point price of vanadium oxide, as reported by Metal Bulletin, was $22.63/lb, compared with $9/lb in September last year.
Energy Fuels president and CEO Mark Chalmers commented on Thursday that the start of vanadium production from the ponds at the White Mesa Mill was well timed in today's strong vanadium market.
“Over the longer term, we are hopeful that today's real-time mining technologies will provide for a possible paradigm shift that has the potential to improve the economics of future vanadium and uranium mining in this well-known and prolific high-grade district."