USA-focused uranium development company Black Range Minerals (BLR) has executed a binding Heads of Agreement (HoA) with Ablation Technologies (ABT) to establish a joint venture to commercialise ABT's ablation mineral technology process. Ablation is an environmentally sensitive and low cost method of concentrating ore that, based on test work, should enable BLR to produce a high value uranium concentrate from ore at its 90.9 Mlb Hansen/Taylor Ranch project in Colorado.
Through the JV, BLR will also have the potential to realise returns from the application of Ablation to other uranium mining operations, worldwide.
On 24 April 2012 BLR released the results of a scoping study that indicated the best way to develop the Hansen project was by adopting underground borehole mining (UBHM) and Ablation technologies. The scoping study demonstrated the robust nature of the chosen development scenario, with operating costs forecast to be approximately $30/lb U3O8 (before royalties, taxes & contingency) and capital expenditure, based on off-site uranium milling, forecast to be less than $80 million.
Having already established a strategic alliance with Kinley Exploration to utilise UBHM, the agreement to use Ablation is the second of two significant milestones that together secure the rights to key technologies that will be used to develop the Hansen project.
BLR's Managing Director Tony Simpson stated: "Besides the obvious benefits for our Hansen project, the Ablation JV opens up a number of opportunities for the company to actively assess utilising this technology at uranium deposits in other mining-friendly areas in the USA and around the world. There are many projects out there that may not be currently economically viable, but could be with the application of the Ablation technology.
"Should arrangements for the exploitation of these types of deposits be concluded, BLR may be able to benefit from earlier cashflow as we continue to move Hansen though the permitting process, which is scheduled to be complete near the end of 2015.
"The JV brings the project development and operational skills of BLR together with an innovative solution to concentrate uranium ores. This gives us the potential to unlock value not only in the Hansen project but also in a range of uranium projects."
BLR and ABT to form a 50/50 JV in respect of the commercialisation and application of Ablation
The JV applies worldwide for use in uranium and associated minerals.
ABT grants BLR a separate licence to use Ablation at its Hansen Project .
Ablation has been successfully tested on ore from BLR's Hansen Project, with recoveries of ~95% of the contained U3O8 in ~10% of the test material.
Ablation has also been successfully tested on ores from a number of other projects in the USA.
Next step in development of Ablation is building a commercial-scale unit.
BLR will initially fund 100% of the operating costs of the JV, with ABT's 50% share recovered from revenues earned.
The concentration of ore using Ablation, to produce a high-grade, high-value concentrate, has the potential to make some marginal uranium projects economical.
The JV will seek opportunities to apply Ablation within the USA and throughout the world.
Ablation is a mineral concentrating technology that is low-cost, efficient and robust. It mechanically separates uranium from the host rock without the use of chemicals, producing a high-grade, high-value concentrate.
The development of Ablation has been progressed over the past five years by Ablation Technologies of Casper, Wyoming, from an initial concept to the point that it has been fully developed and tested in a small scale test unit (750/lb/hr). The next stage of development is to build a larger scale unit to gather operating data, prior to applying it on a commercial basis.
In the ablation process, ore slurry is ejected from two opposing nozzles to create a high-energy impact zone. Collision of particles within this high-energy impact zone separates the mineralised patina (coating) of uranium from the underlying grain. The uranium bearing particles are recovered in the fine fractions separated in a subsequent screening process.
Ablation allows approximately 90% of barren material to be separated from mineralised material prior to milling, greatly reducing the operating and capital costs required to process the highly concentrated ore. The final product is an "ablated concentrate" which comprises approximately 10% of the original mineralised material, which will be processed with conventional processing techniques.
A number of independently supervised tests have been conducted on ore from the Hansen uranium deposit, which confirm the suitability of Ablation to concentrate this particular ore. Hansen test work resulted in the recovery of ~95% of contained U3O8 in ~10% of the test material, producing a high-grade (circa 1.2% U3O8), high-value concentrate for shipment to an off-site mill, or sale.
Ablation has also been tested on ore samples from numerous other projects in the USA and returned similar outstanding results, highlighting further opportunities to evaluate.
Because of the time, cost and complexity involved in permitting and building a uranium mill, a number of projects do not reach the critical mass required to justify the expense. In many such cases these mines are also not located in areas where transport of run of mine ore to an existing mill is viable. In instances such as these, Ablation may be the key to unlocking the potential of these sub-economic resources, as the high-grade, high-value concentrate can be much more economically transported to a mill facility.
Even for projects that have an on-site milling facility, concentration with Ablation before processing into yellow cake may significantly reduce processing costs; in areas such as reagent consumption, which are related to run of mine ore throughput.
ABT has agreed to provide the JV, Mineral Ablation LLC, with a licence to use Ablation for applications in the production of uranium and associated minerals (such as vanadium), where uranium is the dominant mineral being sought. This licence will apply worldwide and no licence fee is payable.
The business of the JV is to market, sell and promote the use of the Ablation for applications in uranium mining. BLR will be required to provide funding for the JV, until such time as it becomes self-funding.
BLR secures rights to Ablation technology to concentrate ore from Hansen/Taylor Ranch uranium project
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