The Key to New Mexico Uranium: A State of the Art Mill

“The key to Grants, New Mexico is a state-of-the-art mill,” said Laramide's Marc Henderson. All of the politicians agreed. “It will be a real boon to New Mexico,” said New Mexico legislator John A. Heaton. “Mining is one of our basic industries in New Mexico.” And after the product is mined, it must be milled.

In an email message, Strathmore Mineral's David Miller told us, “We have now completed independent scoping studies for the Roca Honda Project.” A registered professional engineer completed an independent evaluation on the mill's capital and operating costs. While the name of the engineer was not disclosed, Miller said, “This gentleman has 40-plus years of experience and has designed many mills in the US and the world.” Miller told us, “Mill operating costs for various-sized mills range from the low $ 20 / ton of feed to the high $ 200 / ton of feed. The Roca Honda ore runs from five to six pounds per ton. Per ton-to-pound milling cost is at $ 30 / ton operating cost (20 percent higher than the lower number in the evaluation) with a grade of five pounds per ton. ”

Miller described the mill's capital cost at around $ 100 million, plus / minus $ 20 million, depending upon the size of the mill to be built. Miller also said, “Environmental aspects of such a mill were also reviewed by consulting Answers, and they concluded that it will be possible to permit a mine and mill in New Mexico.” He explained that no mine design work has yet been done. Operating mine costs would be similar to similarly sized metals mines. “They could vary from a low of $ 30 / ton of ore to a high of $ 80 / ton of ore.” Miller emphasized that milling costs could be as low as $ 6 / pound of U3O8. The Roca Honda project, which Strathmore controls from its purchase of the Kerr-McGee properties from Rio Algom (bought by BHP Billiton) in 2004, was one of the next mines designed to feel the 6,000 ton / day Ambrosia Lake Mill.

What impact would a uranium mill have on Grants, New Mexico? We asked Miller to speculate upon the impact, as he is also a third-term legislator from Wyoming. He told us, “A new mine and mill complex of the size Strathmore would need to consider would be employ a minimum of 200 people, and could be double or higher. The quality of the jobs would be similar to other mining jobs: top pay , top benefits and top health care. ” By contrast, In Situ Recovery (ISR) would be less labor intensive. Each ISR facility would employ 50 to 100 people.

With the proposed uranium enrichment facility scheduled for groundbreaking in August, with New Mexico legislators eager to add a nuclear power plant to the state's nuclear energy renaissance, and with a possible uranium mill being discussed, how long before uranium mining resumes in this state? It may be sooner than you think. It a not-yet published interview with Jon Indall, Executive Director of the Uranium Producers of America, he told us, “I wouldn't be surprised if the domestic uranium industry were producing up to 20 million pounds annually.” He forecast it might happen within five years, perhaps sooner. A good deal of this uranium production may come from this state. New Mexico's nuclear renaissance is clearly within reach.

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