Wyoming Uranium Mining Outfit Expands To Australia For Rare Earths In $140M Deal

Energy Fuels, which is preparing to ramp up its Nichols Ranch uranium mine near Kaycee for production by 2025, has agreed to a $140 million deal to jointly develop a rare earths mining project in Australia.

Pat Maio

June 05, 20244 min read

Energy Fuels Inc. mines uranium in Wyoming and other states.
Energy Fuels Inc. mines uranium in Wyoming and other states. (Energy Fuels Inc. via LinkedIn)

Colorado-based Energy Fuels Inc., which is preparing to ramp up its Nichols Ranch uranium mine near Kaycee, Wyoming, for production by 2025, has agreed to jointly develop a rare earths mining project in Australia.

Energy Fuels and Australian-based Astron Corp. Ltd. agreed to jointly develop the Donald rare earth and mineral sands project in Australia in a cash and stock deal that could cost Energy Fuels up to $140 million.

There is already a strong tie with Australia over rare earths and development of these critical minerals in Wyoming.

Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart has taken minority positions in several rare earth companies around the globe in recent months. Local experts in the field don’t discount the possibility of a Rinehart move into Wyoming.

Don Swartz, CEO of American Rare Earths whose parent business is based in Australia, is developing what could become of the richest rare earths deposits in the world with an estimated 2.34 billion tons of rare earth minerals in Wheatland, Wyoming.

In late April, American Rare Earths, with Laramie based operations, rejected a $400 million takeover offer from a group of investors in California. Swartz later said in an interview last month that Rinehart is a “very sophisticated mining investor” and should not be underestimated on her intentions in Wyoming or elsewhere.

A handful of companies are developing rare earth mines and processing in Wyoming and have licenses to mine for the strategic mineral on each of their respective turfs in the state.

This summer, Colorado-based Rare Element Resources Ltd. is looking to complete a rare earth minerals demonstration plant in Upton, Wyoming, while Kentucky-based Ramaco Resources Inc. has boasted of a huge deposit of rare earths on a 16,000-acre coal mine near Sheridan, Wyoming.

The rare earth minerals bonanza is the result of consumers starved for magnet metals integral to the green transition to electric vehicles, wind turbines, consumer goods, robots and military drones, missiles and chips needed for sophisticated computing power.

Digging Wyoming

Energy Fuels, which has other uranium mines located throughout the Cowboy State and elsewhere, could produce up to 2 million pounds of uranium per year. It is among a handful of uranium companies operating in Wyoming that has a business strategy of straddling both uranium and rare earths.

On recent 2024 first quarter conference call with Wall Street analysts, Energy Fuels CEO Mark Chalmers said that his company is building a combined uranium and rare earths minerals company that is exploring acquisition opportunities.

The Astron deal reflects moves Energy Fuels in this direction.

The company also has benefited from an effort led by the federal government to produce uranium for a $75 million strategic reserve in case it needs to be tapped in an emergency.

The Donald project has the potential to supply 7,000 to 14,000 tons of monazite sand in a rare earth element concentrate annually to Energy Fuels’ White Mesa mill in Utah for processing as early as 2026.

Under the joint venture with Astron, Energy Fuels has the right to invest $122 million in cash in the Australian project and issue up to $17.5 million worth of shares.

Energy Fuels will begin dipping its toes in the project this year with a $10.6 million investment in the project and issuing up to $3.5 million in shares.

Under terms of the deal, Energy Fuels can take up to a 49% stake in the Donald project.

Energy Fuels has several uranium projects in various stages of development scattered throughout the Powder River Basin. If all were in production, the company said it could produce up to 5 million pounds annually, including a Sheep Mountain project in south central Wyoming, about 20 miles south of Jeffrey City.

The Sheep Mountain project has more than 30 million pounds of uranium resources, the company said.

Pat Maio can be reached at pat@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Pat Maio


Pat Maio is a veteran journalist who covers energy for Cowboy State Daily.