A follow up on the Rare Earth Elements chase earlier reported on this newsroom caused us to reach out to the owners of San Juan County’s White Mesa Mill. Energy Fuels Resources USA Incorporated V.P. of Marketing and Development, Curtis Moore responded to a request for an update on recent activity at the mill site.
Moore explained that Energy Fuels (EF) has begun working with Monazite Sands in extracting uranium and Rare Earth Elements (REE’s). The move will insure an uninterrupted supply of REE’s for domestic manufacturers who up until now have been solely dependent on China and Russia for the specialized elements. REE’s first major commercial applications came in the early ‘60’s where they were used on a major scale in creating tubes for color television sets.
Now they are the prime ingredients in everything from night vision goggles for our military to the colorful screens you see on your cell phone.
Moore commented in an email, “This is potentially GREAT news for San Juan County. We think over time, this has the potential to create over 100 good paying jobs in San Juan County, plus associated economic development.”
A recent story on Salt Lake National Public Radio station KUER painted the process as one to be wary of. Referring to monazite as “Radioactive Sand”.
Moore went into detail on what the KUER report barely touched on. “Monazite ore has low levels of radioactivity associated with it, because it contains uranium.”
“Monazite ore contains about 0.20% uranium, which is the typical uranium ore grade of Four Corners Region uranium mines.” Moore explains, “So, for every ton of ore that comes out of a typical Four Corners mine , we recover 4 pounds of uranium and the other 1,996 pounds is waste. With monazite ore, we recover 4 pounds of uranium, plus 1,100 pounds of REE’s.”
As the math shows this is a reduction by 55% of the waste generated by normal processing of uranium ores in the region.
The upside for San Juan County? Moore explains, “This an amazing story: clean energy, good jobs, reduced reliance on China and Russia, and potential significant investment in San Juan County.
Energy Fuels CEO Mark S. Chalmers gave a presentation to San Juan County commissioners on December 16th in which the historic legacy of uranium mining in the area was addressed. Graphics from that presentation state that today’s regulations ensure the past will not be repeated. “Historic Cold War era government sponsored uranium mining from the 1940’s -1970’s require immediate action.” The presentation went on to list advocacy for the clean up of legacy mines as one of EF’s priorities.
The White Mesa Mill according to Chalmers can help right that history now.
Bullet points in the presentation to county commissioners included these facts:
The EPA holds billions of dollars to address historic uranium sites on the Navajo Nation.
The mill is licensed to accept cleanup material and recycle it-TODAY.
Other cleanup options will take several years to complete-WITH NO CERTAINTY AS TO OUTCOME
The White Mesa Mill is cleaning up one “private” mine near Grants New Mexico. NOW
Chalmers final point in that presentation to the commissioners closed out by stating “The (White Mesa) Mill can create a cleaner, healthier and more prosperous Four Corners Region for all.”