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New uranium mine opens in Wyoming

Aug 6, 2013 - The Associated Press

Uranium is being mined at a new facility in southwestern Wyoming.

Littleton, Colo.-based Ur-Energy Inc. announced Tuesday that production at the Lost Creek mine began Friday after it received a final approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The mine has been in the works for years. The opening comes three months after Cheyenne-based Cameco Resources opened the North Butte uranium mine in Campbell County.

Ur-Energy says 60 people are currently working at the mine and there are plans to add 40 contract workers. It says it has long-term contracts to sell the uranium to several U.S.-based nuclear utility companies.

Wyoming produces more uranium than any other state -- about 1.6 million pounds a year, or close to one-third of all U.S. production.

The new mine will not use traditional open-pit or underground mining techniques. Lost Creek employs the in-situ recovery process, in which water is pumped into underground uranium ore to dissolve the mineral.

Wells then draw the uranium-bearing liquid to the surface and into a plant where the mineral will be separated from water.

Ur-Energy reportedly is in negotiations to buy Pathfinder Mines, a subsidiary of French energy conglomerate AREVA, and its mines: the Lucky Mc, in the Gas Hills east of Riverton, and the Shirley Basin, 35 miles south of Casper.

Company officials have said obtaining permits for those mines should take less time than Lost Creek because some are already in place, and the first process blazed the trail for the others.

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