Australian-based uranium developer Peninsula Energy (ASX: PEN) has achieved a major milestone in the regulatory approval process for the use of low pH solutions at its Lance Projects uranium operations in the United States.
The company’s wholly-owned US subsidiary Strata Energy Inc this week received formal approval from the Department of Environmental Quality in Wyoming for a permit to mine amendment at the project, which will ultimately see a transition in operational setup at the mine from alkaline to low pH insitu recovery.
The approval follows the completion of a technical review of the amendment application by the government agency, completion of a public comment period and a review of comments received.
Increased uranium grades
With a resource base of 53.9 million pounds uranium, Lance Projects holds the largest defined uranium resource of any currently producing asset in the US.
The project was originally designed to use an alkaline lixiviant recovery process; however, a research study in 2017 found that method was unlikely to achieve the production rates and unit costs required for sustainable long-term commercial success at anything other than substantially-increased uranium prices.
Laboratory testing during the study used a range of lower pH solutions (or mild acids) to return “dramatically increased” peak uranium solution grades averaging nearly 1 gram per litre, with uranium recoveries typically over 90%.
These initial results indicated that a low pH system could be a major transformational development for Lance Projects and could align Peninsula’s operating performance and cost profile with the industry’s leading global uranium production projects.
“The transition to a low pH recovery system could positively transform [our] key asset in the United States during current challenging uranium market conditions and could ultimately position [us] to rapidly grow when uranium markets improve,” the company said at the time.
In December, Peninsula commenced a low pH field demonstration at Lance Projects comprised firstly of a mining stage which aims to lower the local mining zone’s pH level to a target of approximately 2 standard units without compromising the ability to move lixiviant through the zone.
The demonstration will also include an initial restoration stage set to commence within a few months, which aims to return the pH level in the mining zone to equal or above 5 standard units in order to bring the formation pH into a range where industry standard restoration techniques can be utilised.
“This approval from the Wyoming authorities is the most significant regulatory milestone to date in our transition to a low pH insitu recovery operation,” said Peninsula managing director Wayne Heili.
“We are confident all approvals will soon be in place to allow the start of commercial-scale low pH operations at Lance Projects later this year.”
At midday, shares in Peninsula were up 24.26% to $0.292.