Production

Currently, the United States imports about 92% of the uraniumit needs each year. About $16 million worth of uranium was produced in the state in 2008, and $7 million in 2005.Colorado has about 32 active mining permits for uranium, but little to no present production.It is very common for a mine to be shut down until prices and demand make it economically viable to re-open the facility. For more information on Colorado Uranium mining in 2014, click here.

image: Burro Mine entrance

Image: Burro Mine, Courtesy of the Colorado Geological Survey

There are two major forms of uranium mining: Hard-rock mining and In-Situ Leaching (ISL).

Hard-rock mining involves determining where a vein of commercially valuable ore is located and extract it usingmechanical meansuntil the supply is exhausted.

In situ leaching (ISL), also known as solution mining, or in situ recovery (ISR) in North America, involves leaving the ore where it is in the ground, and recovering the minerals from it by dissolving them and pumping the pregnant solution to the surface where the minerals can be recovered. Consequently there is little surface disturbance and no tailings or waste rock generated. However, the orebody needs to be permeable to the liquids used, and located so that they do not contaminate groundwater away from the orebody.

 

 


In 2011, 45% of world uranium mined was from ISL operations.

The economics of uranium mining are difficult because of a lack of milling capacity in the country. Uranium production is from one mill (White Mesa, Utah) fed by four or five underground mines and several in-situ leach (ISL).A proposed new mill (Piñon Ridge Mill) in the Paradox Valley in western Colorado has beens wending its way through the permitting process. However, in April 2012 Energy Fuels Resources Corporation (EFRC, a Colorado-based subsidiary ofEnergy Fuels Inc.of Toronto) agreed to take over allDenison Mines’US assets and operations, including the currently operated White Mesa mill, in a C$106 million merger. This diminished the priority of building the PiñonRidge mill, and in September 2013 the company put plans for it on hold.

Colorado’sUravan Mining District,located in the southwestern portion of the state, is the oldest uranium district in the nation. The Uravan belt has about 1,200 historic mines that produced over 63 million pounds of uranium and 330 million pounds of vanadium from 1948 to 1978.