Energy Fuels Inc (NYSEAMERICAN:UUUU) (TSX:EFR) said it has entered into consulting agreements with two rare earth element (REE) industry experts, Constantine Karayannopoulos and Brock O'Kelley, to aid in the development and implementation of commercial and technical REE strategies for the new US REE program the company is pursuing.
Karayannopoulos currently serves as chairman of Neo Performance Materials (TSX:NEO), one of the world's leading producers of rare earth engineered and magnetic materials, while O'Kelley previously played a key role in the operation of the Mountain Pass, California rare earth processing facility during the 1990s and 2000s.
Energy Fuels is currently evaluating minor modifications to its operations, complementary to its uranium business, to enable the processing of uranium and thorium-bearing rare earth ores at its White Mesa Mill in Utah. These ores are expected to come from third parties, either through ore purchase, tolling, or other arrangements, with the company aiming to produce a commercially viable rare earth concentrate or concentrates while also recycling and recovering uranium from the ores.
The rare earth concentrates will then be available for commercial sale to third party REE oxide separation and recovery facilities in the US and elsewhere, and potentially for further refinement at the mill.
The removal and recovery of the uranium and thorium from rare earth ores is the key aspect of its value proposition, the company said, adding that its mill in Utah has the potential to provide a link in a commercially viable US rare earth supply chain.
Energy Fuels also said it intends to focus on its current uranium mining and production operations, and possibly enhance that production by recovering contained uranium from REE ores for sale into the nuclear fuel cycle.
In a statement, Energy Fuels president and chief executive Mark S. Chalmers said: "Energy Fuels is extremely excited to bring Constantine Karayannopoulos and Brock O'Kelley on board to advance our entry into the rare earth space in the US. Over the past year or so, Energy Fuels has been actively evaluating this rare earth opportunity. We are quickly coming to the conclusion that the White Mesa Mill may be an ideal U.S. facility to process rare earth element ore streams and produce rare earth concentrates."
He added: “Mr Karayannopoulos and Mr.O'Kelley will assist Energy Fuels in the commercial and technical aspects of this endeavor. Mr Karayannopoulos established Neo Material Technologies into a unique REE materials company, which is currently one of the World's leading producers of REEs and a broad range of light and heavy rare earth engineered products outside of China. Neo was acquired for C$1.3 billion in 2012 by Molycorp, the operator of the rare earth mine and processing facility in Mountain Pass, California. Neo maintained its cash flow and profitability, despite Molycorp's 2015 reorganization. Mr O'Kelley worked with Mr Karayannopoulos at Molycorp as Technology Fellow and Vice President of Technology. He is currently an associate professor at the Colorado School of Mines working with REE related projects.
“Energy Fuels looks forward to working with these two industry veterans in developing our REE business in the US and in advancing our relationships in this sector. Between Mr Karayannopoulos, Mr O'Kelley, and ANSTO of Sydney, Australia, we believe Energy Fuels is truly assembling a top-flight team capable of building a successful US REE business."
Chalmers continued: "We are also very excited about how this project will further the Company's sustainability program, which we believe is one of Energy Fuels' defining features and what sets us apart from our peers. At Energy Fuels, we are proud to be able to say that the very heart of our business – uranium production at state-of-the-art US processing facilities – helps address global climate change, reduces air pollution, and makes the world a healthier and cleaner place. Uranium is the fuel for carbon-free, emission-free baseload nuclear power – one of the cleanest forms of energy in the world.
“We also recycle uranium and vanadium, thereby helping to ensure that the world's resources are not wasted. Under our planned U.S. rare earth business, we will not only be recycling uranium from rare earth ore streams that would otherwise be lost, we will be helping to produce rare earth elements, which are key components of numerous modern technologies. From a sustainability perspective, not only will Energy Fuels provide critical rare earth elements used in many advanced technologies and clean energy applications, we will also provide recycled uranium to fuel carbon-free nuclear energy and power these technologies. This is a remarkable clean energy story."
Energy Fuels also said that Chalmers will be a keynote speaker at VirtualInvestorConferences.com on Thursday to discuss the group's rare earth opportunity further.
The firm is a uranium mining company focused on supplying U3O8 to major nuclear utilities. It also produces vanadium from certain projects, as market conditions warrant.
Contact the author at [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter @Cal_Proac