Your smartphone is full of them. The iPhone for example uses 8 of them for everything from screen colors to magnets for the speakers and circuitry. They first came into the everyday life of the average American in the 1960’s making color television available to consumers. They are called Rare Earth Elements. And although they are plentiful in the gadgets we use and the crust of the earth beneath us, they are very difficult to extract from the natural world.
Logan Shumway Mill Manager for Energy Fuels at the White Mesa Mill just south of Blanding says he’s very excited about the potential impact that processing Rare Earths would have for our local economy.
Also called Lanthanides, derived from the Greek word for hidden, the elements are found within other elements. With names like scandium and yttrium the US Department of Energy classifies them as “Technology Metals” due to the fact that they are required to produce many of our most advanced technologies. The list includes MRI machines, computer screens, automobiles and ranges as wide as use in optical glass and as catalysts for the process of oil refining. It is very likely Rare Earth Elements have impacted your life without you even knowing it.
Energy Fuels, a publicly traded company based in Lakewood Colorado, owns the White Mesa Mill. The company hosted a webcast last week to announce its entry into the Rare Earth Element sector.
Energy Fuels believes its fully licensed and constructed White Mesa Mill, which is the only uranium and vanadium mill in operation in the U.S. today, can play a key role in bringing the REE supply chain back to the U.S. from China. . The Company’s primary business is-and will remain- uranium mining and production. However, Energy Fuels believes it can leverage its existing licenses, infrastructure and capabilities at the WMM to also produce REEs. Key highlight of this plan include:
Energy Fuels is embarking on a program to evaluate the production of REE’s at its White Mesa Mill in addition to its current business as the largest uranium producer in the United States and a significant Vanadium producer when market conditions warrant.
The U.S. government has declared REE’s critical to national defense and has made government funds available to private companies to develop domestic REE production capabilities.
As the only licensed, constructed and operating conventional uranium processing facility in the U.S., Energy Fuels’ White Mesa Mill is uniquely positioned to play a key role in the processing of REE ore, which is successful, may reduce the need to process a number of different types of REE ores in China.
Licensing is a major impediment to the construction and operation of REE processing facilities in the U.S. due to the uranium and other radioactive elements often associated with REE ore streams; The company believes that the White Mesa Mill can be utilized to allow for the recovery of REE’s, along with uranium, from those ore streams.
Energy Fuels has engaged ANSTO based in Sydney Australia, one of the world’s leading experts in the REE sector and management of radioactive materials, to assist in testing, mineralogy, flowsheet development and pilot plant engineering at the White Mesa Mill, to help advance this initiative.
ANSTO is Australia’s Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, it was established in 1987 to replace the Australian Atomic Energy Commission.
Energy Fuels’ president and CEO Mark S. Chalmers commented:
At Energy Fuels , we pride ourselves on being the leading U.S. uranium miner. But, we’re also entrepreneurs, and there is literally no other facility in North America with the diverse capabilities and licensing flexibility of the White Mesa Mill. We are always examining ways to leverage this unique asset to generate cashflow. This is where we expect REE’s will come into play. Over the past several months, we have received a number of inbound communications, from both private entities and the U.S. government, inquiring about REE processing at the WMM. After several months of evaluation, we are ready to announce our entry into the REE Sector. To assist in this endeavor, we have engaged ANSTO, one of the world's leading technical consultants with extensive experience in REE’s and a group with which I personally have many years of experience. We believe we have the opportunity to turn the WMM into a ‘one stop shop’ for U.S. critical mineral processing, thereby reducing our reliance on China. Perhaps most importantly , the WMM is already licensed, constructed,and operating today, it has extensive experience processing and handling uranium and vanadium ores and other low level radioactive materials, and we believe it can recover REE’s under our existing mill license and existing permits with only minor or routine amendments required, if any. The Trump Administration has prioritized bringing REE production back to the U.S., and they are willing to invest significant dollars into supporting domestic REE infrastructure. We believe Energy Fuels holds a distinct advantage as an early mover in this high-value, high-growth sector, and we look forward to engaging with the U. S. government on this important national security initiative.