A rare earth element production facility is part of Energy Fuels’ White Mesa uranium mill south of Blanding, Utah, which is a top U.S. producer of uranium and vanadium and a significant U.S. producer of rare earth elements.
There have been many supporters and critics throughout the mill’s history; this division continues now. The mill is the only traditional uranium mill currently functioning in the United States. According to a press release issued on September 17, Energy Fuels processed over 300 tons of monazite and a rare earth carbonate derived from mined ore transported from Georgia.
Upon sale, Energy Fuels will transport the product to a facility in Europe, where it will be separated into different rare earth oxides and compounds for further processing. Rare earth elements are found in a wide variety of goods, including mobile phones, computers, electric and hybrid cars, wind turbines, and flat-screen TVs and displays, among other things.
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Energy Fuels President and CEO Mark Chalmers said that the increased output would help establish a domestic supply chain for the critical mineral. The White Mesa mill in San Juan County, Utah, could support more than 100 people. To explain the company’s intentions for rare earth mineral production, Energy Fuels executives held a virtual public event and tour at the White Mesa Mill on September 16-17.
The demand for rare earth materials, according to Chalmers, is projected to grow five-fold over the next ten years, according to his remarks. He said that China controls the mining and manufacturing of rare earth and that Energy Fuels is “positioned to provide a local alternative to Chinese dominance.” Eventually, the White Mesa Mill will produce up to 15,000 tons of monazite per year, which would meet half of the country’s need for the mineral.
Monazite will be exposed to low amounts of naturally occurring radioactive materials during the milling process, such as uranium collected. To further convert the uranium into fuel rods for nuclear power reactors, the yellowcake is transported to the United States. Thorium recovery is also being investigated by Energy Fuels and White Mesa Mill, which may have applications in sophisticated nuclear technology and medicinal isotopes required for the development of tailored cancer treatments.