Uranium mining in Utah

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Uranium mining in Utah, a state of the United States, has a history going back more than 100 years. Uranium started as a byproduct of vanadium mining about 1900, became a byproduct of radium mining about 1910, then back to a byproduct of vanadium when the radium price fell in the 1920s. Utah saw a uranium boom in the late 1940s and early 1950s, but uranium mining declined in the 1980s. Since 2001 there has been a revival of interest in uranium mining, as a result of higher uranium prices.

Uravan mineral belt[edit]

Mining of uranium-vanadium ore in southeast Utah goes back to the late 19th century, at the northern end of the Uravan mineral belt (see Uranium mining in Colorado), where it crosses into Grand County, Utah. Uranium occurs in the Salt Wash member of the Morrison Formation of Jurassic age. Because much of the value depended on the vanadium content, the only economic ore minerals were carnotite and tyuyamunite. Following World War II buying for nuclear weapons programs made uranium valuable for its own sake, and attracted hundreds of prospectors to southeast Utah.[1]

Lisbon Valley[edit]

Uranium was discovered in sandstone of the Chinle Formation in Lisbon Valley, San Juan County in 1913, and some carnotite was mined on a small scale for vanadium in 1917, 1940, and 1941. In the uranium mining boom of 1948, mining began in sandstone of the Permian Cutler Formation. Then in 1952, Charles Steen drilled into a rich 70-foot-thick (21 m) uraninite orebody in the Triassic Chinle Formation; that type of deposit became the largest producer in the district. Ore is distributed along 15 miles of outcrop on the southwest side of the Lisbon valley anticline. The district produced 49 million pounds of U3O8 (uranium oxide) through 1965.[2]

White Canyon and Monument Valley districts[edit]

Uranium associated with copper mineralization at the White Canyon district in was identified in 1920, but production did not begin until 1946. The geology is similar to that of the Monument Valley uranium district 40 miles to the south which straddles the Utah/Arizona state line (see Uranium mining in Arizona). Uranium occurs in the Shinarump Member[3] of the Triassic Chinle Formation. Primary ore minerals are uraninite and coffinite. Through 1965, the White Canyon district produced 10 million pounds of U3O8.[4] On June 29, 2012, Energy Fuels acquired the Daneros mine from Denison Mines in Utah's White Canyon District.[5] Energy Fuels produced from the Daneros mine until October 2012, at which time the mine was placed on standby, care, and maintenance.[6]

Marysvale district[edit]

At the Marysvale district, in Piute and Sevier counties, uranium occurs in hydrothermal veins in igneous rocks (quartz monzonite, latite porphyry, and aplite). Primary uranium minerals are uraninite and umohoite, with associated gangue minerals pyrite, fluorite, quartz, and adularia.[7]

Silver Reef district[edit]

Uranium minerals were noted by 1881 in the silver mines at the Silver Reef/Harrisburg district, at Silver Reef, Washington County. No uranium was extracted until 1950, when a small shipment was made. The uranium occurs as carnotite along with copper mineralization and the silver mineral chlorargyrite in the Chinle Formation.[8] Uranium production has been minor.

Yellow Chief mine[edit]

Uranium was mined from tuffaceous conglomerate and sandstone of the Miocene Spor Mountain Formation at the Yellow Chief mine in the Thomas Range of Juab County. The uranium ore minerals were beta-uranophane, weeksite, and schroekingerite.[9]

Bingham Canyon copper mine[edit]

The Bingham Canyon Mine in Salt Lake County, a large porphyry copper mine, recovered 120,000 to 150,000 pounds of uranium oxide each year from 1978 through 1989, as part of its copper mining operation.[10]

Current activity[edit]

All of Utah’s numerous uranium mines closed prior to 2000, because of low uranium prices.

On June 29, 2012, Energy Fuels Inc. acquired all of Denison Mines uranium properties located in the United States, including the mines discussed below.[11][12] In late 2006, Denison Mines reopened the Pandora mine in the La Sal mining district of southeastern Utah.[13] Denison Mines received all the required permits from the state of Utah and the US Bureau of Land Management to reopen its Tony M uranium mine in the Henry Mountains. The Henry Mountains Complex (including the Tony M mine) is said to contain 12.8 million pounds of U3O8.[14] The Pandora mine and Henry Mountains Complex, in addition to the Beaver and Daneros mines, were placed on standby, care and maintenance by Energy Fuels in the Fall of 2012.[15]

Energy Fuels Inc. acquired the White Mesa Mill from Denison Mines on June 29, 2012.[16][17] The White Mesa Mill, located near Blanding, Utah, is the only conventional uranium (and vanadium) mill operating in the United States. Energy Fuels is currently processing conventional ore and "alternate feed material" received from other North American producers. After a scheduled shut-down from mid-2009, the mill resumed processing production ore in March 2010.[18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ R.P. Fischer (1968) The uranium and vanadium deposits of the Colorado Plateau region, in Ore Deposits in the United States, 1933-1967, New York: American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, p.738.
  2. ^ Hiram B. Wood (1969) Geology and Exploitation of Uranium Deposits in the Lisbon Valley Area, Utah, in Ore Deposits of the United States, 1933-1967, v.1, New York: American Institute of Mining Engineers, p.770-799.
  3. ^ "Shinarump Member of Chinle Formation". Colorado River Basin Stratigraphy. USGS. 2006-05-06. Retrieved 2011-01-10. 
  4. ^ Roger C. Malan (1969) The Uranium Mining Industry and Geology of the Monument Valley and White Canyon Districts, Arizona and Utah, in Ore Deposits of the United States, 1933-1967, v.1, New York: American Institute of Mining Engineers, p.790-804.
  5. ^ "Energy Fuels Inc., 2012 Annual Information Form". 
  6. ^ Reuters. "Energy Fuels to Focus on Lower Cost Uranium Production". 
  7. ^ Paul F. Kerr and others (1957) Marysvale, Utah, Uranium Area, Geological Society of America, Special paper 64.
  8. ^ Frederick Stugard Jr. (1951) Uranium Resources in the Silver Reef (Harrisburg) District, Washington County, Utah, US Geological Survey, Open-File Report 51-41.
  9. ^ David A. Lindsey (1982) Tertiary Volcanic Rocks and uranium in the Thomas range and Northern Drum Mountains, Juab County, Utah, US Geological Survey, Professional Paper 1221.
  10. ^ Technologically enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials from Uranium Mining v.1, US Environmental Protection Agency, EPA 402-R-05-007, p.1-17.
  11. ^ "Energy Fuels Inc., 2012 Annual Information Form". 
  12. ^ Associated, Press. "Energy Fuels to buy Utah's White Mesa urnaium mill". The Denver Post. 
  13. ^ R.L. Bon and K.A. Krahulec, Utah, Mining Engineering, May 2007, p.121.
  14. ^ "Energy Fuels Inc., Technical Report on the Henry Mountains Complex, June 27, 2012". 
  15. ^ "Energy Fuels to Focus on Lower Cost Uranium Production". 
  16. ^ "Energy Fuels Inc., 2012 Annual Information Form". 
  17. ^ Associated, Press. "Energy Fuels to buy Utah's White Mesa uranium mill". The Denver Post. 
  18. ^ "Denison Mines Reports First Quarter 2010 Results, p.2". Denison Mines Corp. 2010-05-06. Retrieved 2010-05-18. 

External links[edit]