The Demonstration Plant operation is a joint effort between Cameco and Uranium Equities (UEQ) staff with Cameco lending significant resources to the project. Cameco invested about $16.5 million in this project.
The global annual production potential of uranium from the phosphate industry is in the order of 20 Million lbs U3O8 (10,000 tons). This quantity of uranium is mined in phosphate ores but not recovered annually on a worldwide basis. The major phosphate based fertiliser producers are located in Northern Africa, North America and Asia.
Uranium Equities’ (UEQ’s) PhosEnergy demonstration plant uses a refined ion exchange process to recover uranium from phosphate streams from the production of phosphate-based fertilizers. The demonstration plant, which is contained inside two shipping containers allowing for easy mobilization and transport, was shipped from Australia to the USA, where it was commissioned in May. Four ten-day tests were completed between June and August using phosphate streams from two different fertilizer facilities.
The operations achieved consistently high uranium recovery of over 90%, with the chemistry of the phosphate stream unaffected except for the removal of uranium, results which UEQ describes as “exceptional.” The concentrated product from the operations was shipped to a uranium production facility and can be used to make a “saleable product”.
UEQ managing director Bryn Jones described the completion of the plant’s first operating phase as a major milestone in the commercialization of the process, to be followed by an engineering study to further increase confidence in capital and operating cost estimates – operating costs are currently estimated to be $25-30 per pound U3O8, with capital costs of $100 per pound of annualized nameplate capacity. The engineering study is expected to begin in the final quarter of 2012.