Posted 3 months ago
By John Axtell
Cameco, which owns the Crow Butte mine near Crawford and two mines in Wyoming, moved its U-S headquarters from Denver to Cheyenne in 2010.
Spokesman Ken Vaughn says the move reflects low uranium prices, which jumped from $8 a pound in 2001 to $135 a pound in 2005 but have dropped now to $27 a ton, but says it also bring the headquarters closer to the Wyoming mining operations.
The Crow Butte mine, an in-situ operation that pumps a chemical solution similar to bicarbonate of soda into an aquifer to free uranium molecules for pumping to the surface, began commercial production in 1991.
The company filed for a 10-year renewal of its operating permit in 2007, a year before the old permit expired, but is still waiting for a decision from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission…which held several public hearings after environmental groups, Native American activists, and some area ranchers raised objections.
The NRC has allowed the mine to continue operations during the permit renewal process, but Vaughn expects to get a final decision sometime soon.
Around the same time, Cameco applied to expand the mine to the north with the 2,110-acre North Trend Expansion. The NRC held a series of public meetings and hearings centered on essentially the same types of objections, but without issuing a decision.
Since 2008, the company has applied for 2 other expansions to the south…Three Crown and Marsland…and has asked the NRC to give priority to the Marsland expansion, which has the largest deposits of the three. Vaughn hopes to see a decision on that expansion in the coming months.
Vaughn says operations will continue at the existing mine for several more years, but the company has no more areas there for new wells and new production areas.
The steady reduction in reserves has also lead to a steady reduction in the assessed valuation of the mine and reduced tax revenue for Dawes County and the Crawford school district.