URI studies conventional uranium mining in NM

URI studies conventional uranium mining in NM

Uranium Resources Inc. will conduct feasibility studies on three old uranium mine sites it owns in Crownpoint, Nose Rock and Roca Honda in northwestern New Mexico to determine if conventional mining would be profitable.

HRI Energy Inc., the New Mexico subsidiary of Texas-based URI , owns 183,000 acres of local mineral holdings. It is planning to do “in situ” recovery (ISR) on at least one property in Church Rock near Gallup.

ISR is a modern technique that uses small wells to pump uranium-bearing groundwater to the surface. The ore is filtered out and the water is pumped back underground. The process is much less expensive than conventional mining, requiring less than one-fifth the workforce, and it leaves the land surface undisturbed.

However, ISR is not feasible in many places, so HRI is considering conventional mining on other properties.

The three mines targeted for study were designed by previous owners to produce nearly 4 million pounds of uranium per year. All three projects were deferred in the 1980s after uranium prices plummeted.

There are six completed mine shafts on the sites with a total estimated replacement cost of between $25 million and $50 million. Using the current shafts could lower mine-development costs and quicken the time needed to get the mines up and running.

The feasibility study will evaluate the following:

Reopening and inspection of two 3,300 foot shafts at Nose Rock developed by a division of Phillips Petroleum in the late 1970s. Reopening and inspection of three shafts at Crown Point developed by a division of Westinghouse Electric Corp. Reopening and inspection of a Kerr-McGee Corp. shaft at Roca Honda. Thorough review of HRI’s extensive data base that includes 16,000 logs, feasibility studies, mine development plans and ore reserve analyses that were prepared during the 1970s and 1980s by Homestake Mining, Mobil Oil, Phillips Petroleum, United Nuclear and Westinghouse. The review will focus on 43,000 acres of holdings in the Ambrosia Lake District. A thorough examination of HRI’s mineral holdings to determine which properties are more amenable to conventional development rather than ISR. An analysis to determine the feasibility of building a conventional mill to process company mined ore.

Published November 16, 2006 by New Mexico Business Weekly

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