The Companies Restarting Uranium Mining in the U.S.
May 07, 2024
SunZia Transmission Map


In the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, and the subsequent crash in uranium prices, most U.S. uranium mines were put into care and maintenance, meaning they were maintained without active mining.

Following a significant increase in uranium prices starting in late 2021, uranium mining in the U.S. is set to get a boost, with several companies planning to restart operations.

These developments are especially pertinent given the recent bipartisan focus on ensuring domestic supply of uranium as well as uranium enrichment capacity.

The restart projects are being led primarily by five listed companies – enCore Energy, Energy Fuels, Peninsula Energy, Uranium Energy Corp, and Ur-Energy. Below we take a closer look at the current status of the U.S. uranium projects for each company.

First, a brief overview of recent trends in U.S. domestic uranium production and consumption.

American Uranium Production

U.S. uranium production has declined from 4.8 million pounds of uranium concentrate (U3O8) in 2014 to only 194,000 pounds in 2022. In the 1980s, the country produced almost 44 million pounds anually.

For context, the world produced around 109 million pounds of U3O8 in 2022, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Total employment in the U.S. uranium industry has fallen in line with the mine closures.

In 2024, the uranium mines restarting in the United States primarily use in-situ recovery technology. This is a shift from earlier periods, where underground mining was the most common approach to uranium mining in the U.S.

In-situ Recovery (ISR)

In-situ recovery (ISR), also known as in-situ leaching, is a mining technique used to extract uranium with minimal environmental impact.

Instead of excavating ore, ISR dissolves uranium in place by injecting a solution into the ore deposit.

The solution, fortified with a complexing agent, travels through the permeable orebody, leaching uranium as it goes. This uranium-rich solution is then pumped to the surface for processing.

This approach to mining avoids major land disturbance and does not produce tailings or waste rock.

American Uranium Consumption

Uranium consumption in the United States, meanwhile, has remained relatively steady over the past several decades.

95% of Uranium purchased by the U.S. in 2022 was of foreign origin. The top sources of supply are Canada (27%) and Kazakhstan (25%).

Uranium Energy Corp (UEC)

Uranium Energy Corp’s Irigaray CPP. Photo: Uranium Energy Corp.

Uranium Energy Corp has built through acquisitions what it calls the “largest diversified North American focused uranium portfolio.” The company acquired Uranium One Americas for $112 million in cash from Russian state-owned nuclear corporation Rosatom.

Uranium Energy Corp now has two production-ready ISR hub and spoke platforms in South Texas and Wyoming. It has 8.5 million pounds of licensed annual U3O8 capacity in the United States and a 223m pounds M&I (Measured and Indicated) resource.

In January 2024 UEC’s board of directors approved plans to restart Uranium production at the company’s Christensen Ranch In-Situ Recovery (ISR) operations in Wyoming, with processing to take place at the company’s fully operational Irigaray Central Processing Plant (CPP), also in Wyoming.

 “This is the moment we have been working towards for over a decade, having acquired and further developed leading U.S. and Canadian assets with an exceptional, deeply experienced operations team. Uranium market fundamentals are the best the industry has witnessed, and various supply shocks have accelerated the bull market with recent prices eclipsing the $100 per pound level. With this exciting backdrop, we are pleased to announce our production restart in Wyoming.” – Amir Adnani, Predisend and CEO, Uranium Energy Corp

At the same time, the company is advancing restart plans for its Texas Hub & Spoke ISR Portfolio.

Uranium Energy Corp also owns earlier-stage conventional uranium mines in Arizona.

Wyoming Hub & Spoke ISR

  • The Irigaray CPP is the hub central to four fully permitted ISR projects in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, including Christensen Ranch.
  • Current licensed capacity of 2.5 million pounds U3O8 per year.
  • First production is expected during August of 2024 and will be funded with existing cash on the company’s balance sheet.
  • In the coming months, UEC will provide additional information on the expected volumes for the first year of production.
  • UEC has also submitted an application to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality to expand the Irigaray CPP licensed capacity from 2.5 to 4 million pounds U3O8 per year.

    Uranium Energy Corp trades on the NYSE American exchange, with a market capitalization of $2.98 billion.

    Uranium Energy Corp’s Christensen Ranch Mine Unit 10, showing wells and two module buildings. Photo: Uranium Energy Corp.

    enCore Energy (EU)

    enCore Energy’s Rosita IX ISR Uranium Plant in South Texas. Photo: enCore Energy.

    enCore Energy restarted production at its Rosita CPP in Texas in November 2023.

    Longer term, the company is targeting a 3 million pound per annum production rate by 2026, and 5 million pounds by 2028. Production will initially come from the company’s Rosita and Alta Mesa Central ISR Processing Plants in South Texas.

    The company also has assets in South Dakota and Wyoming expected to start producing in 2026.

    Photo: enCore Energy

    Rosita Central ISR Uranium Processing Plant (CPP)

    • One of enCore’s three licensed plants – already in production as of November 2023.
    • A fully licensed CPP with a production capacity of 800,000 pounds of U3O8 per year.

    Alta Mesa Central ISR Uranium Processing Plant (CPP)

    • Planned for production start in 2024.
    • Total operating capacity of 1.5 million pounds of uranium per year.
    • Planned production 2024 with initial 2024 production of ~500,000 pounds of U3O8 per year.
    • A joint venture on Alta Mesa with enCore holding a 70% joint venture interest and remaining the project manager, and Boss Energy holding a 30% joint venture interest in exchange for a payment of US$60 million.

    enCore Energy’s Alta Mesa ISR Uranium Plant in South Texas. Photo: enCore Energy.

    enCore Energy trades on NASDAQ and the TSX Venture Exchange, with a market capitalization of $891 million.

    Energy Fuels (UUUU)

    A tank at White Mesa Mill in Utah, which processes uranium, vanadium and rare earths. Photo: Energy Fuels.

    In 2023, Energy Fuels commenced production at three of its uranium mines: Pinyon Plain (Arizona), La Sal (Utah) and Pandora (Utah). The company expects to produce uranium at a rate of 1.1 to 1.4 million pounds per year once these three mines have ramped up production in mid-to-late 2024.

    Energy Fuels is now preparing two additional mines in Colorado and Wyoming (Whirlwind and Nichols Ranch) for expected production by the end of 2024. If pricing remains favorable, these two projects could potentially increase Energy Fuels’ uranium production to a run-rate of over two million pounds of U3O8 per year as early as 2025.

    Nichols Ranch Uranium Recovery Facility in Wyoming

      • A fully permitted uranium ISR facility with a licensed capacity to produce 2 million pounds of U3O8 per year.
      • Acquired in June 2015 through the company’s acquisition of Uranerz Energy Corporation.
      • The Nichols Ranch Project was placed on standby in 2020.
      • Nichols Ranch is expected to be able to ramp back up to commercial production levels with limited required capital within 6-12 months following a final restart decision from Energy Fuels.
      • The company is also undertaking exploration and development activities to expand the resources at the Nichols Ranch Project and to further develop a wellfield to be ready for potential recommencement of production in 2025.

    White Mesa Mill

      • The White Mesa Mill is the only operating conventional uranium mill, and the only uranium, REE and vanadium processing facility in the United States.
      • Located near Blanding, San Juan County, Utah, the mill is centrally situated to be fed by a number of the company’s uranium and uranium-vanadium projects in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, as well as by ore purchases or toll milling arrangements with third parties.
      • The White Mesa Mill has historically operated on a campaign basis, whereby mineral processing occurs as mill feed, contract requirements, and/or market conditions warrant.
      • Energy Fuels plans to accumulate the ore mined in 2024 at the mill, awaiting processing which is slated to commence towards the end of 2024 or possibly in 2025.

    Other Projects

      • In 2024, the Company also plans to advance permitting on the Roca Honda, Sheep Mountain and Bullfrog Projects, which could expand the Company’s uranium production to a run-rate of up to five million pounds of U3O8 per year in the coming years.

    Energy Fuels trades on the NYSE American exchange and the Toronto Stock Exchange, with a market capitalization of $942 million.

    Ur-Energy (URG, URE.TO)

    Ur-Energy announced the successful restart of its Lost Creek ISR Uranium Facility in Sweetwater County, Wyoming in 2023. The company is currently ramping production towards a wellfield production target of 1.2 million pounds U3O8 on an annual basis.

    During Q1, the company captured approximately 38,221 pounds, dried and packaged approximately 39,229 pounds, and shipped 35,445 pounds U3O8 at its Lost Creek operations.

    In March 2024, Ur-Energy announced the decision to build out its wholly owned, fully permitted and licensed Shirley Basin Project in Carbon County, Wyoming.

    The decision to build out our Shirley Basin Project is a major milestone for our Company as it will nearly double our annual permitted mine production capacity to 2.2 million pounds while diversifying our supply. The build out will also solidify our position as the dominant producer in the Great Divide Basin and Shirley Basin Districts of Wyoming. We look forward to bringing in situ mining technology back to its birthplace in Shirley Basin where it was pioneered beginning in 1963. The Shirley Basin Uranium District has a long, proud history and we are excited to bring the jobs back while responsibly operating. -John Cash, Ur-Energy Chairman and CEO

    Ur-Energy trades on the NYSE American exchange and Toronto Stock Exchange, with a market capitalization of $500 million.

    Peninsula Energy (PEN.AX, PENMF)

    Peninsula Energy is advancing two ISR projects in Wyoming, its flagship Lance Project and a smaller Dagger Project.

    The Lance Project, which last produced uranium in July 2019, is expected to commence production in late 2024. The project envisions a 10 year mine life, with a steady-state production rate of 1.8m pounds U3O8 per year. The August 2023 Life-of-Mine Plan details All-in Sustaining Costs of 42.46/lb.

    The Lance project has a 53.8m pound JORC resource defined in 2012. Peninsula Energy is planning further exploration and drilling, with a 104-163 million pounds exploration target.

    Peninsula Energy trades on the Australian Stock Exchange and OTC markets, with a market capitalization of $168 million.

    Cameco (CCJ, CCO.TO)

    Historically, Cameco has been the largest uranium producer in the United States. The company ceased commercial production at its U.S. operations in 2018. It expects ongoing cash and non-cash care and maintenance costs to range between $12.5 million and $14.5 million for 2024.

    Cameco’s suspended ISR projects in the United States include the Crow Butte mine, which was the first uranium mine in Nebraska and has produced 11.8 million pounds of uranium historically and the Smith Ranch-Highland mine, which first opened in 1975 and has produced 23 million pounds of uranium.

    The company has indicated that while these mines are not among their top near-term development priorities, they may be re-started in the future depending on uranium prices.

    Cameco trades on the New York Stock Exchange and Toronto Stock Exchange, with a market capitalization of $22 billion.

    Sign up for our newsletter below:

    Related Stock Lists

    Join the GSR Community

    Share This