Australian-based Uranium Equities (ASX: UEQ) confirmed Tuesday the viability and profitability of uranium extraction as a by-product from phosphate fertilizer production, as a result of an independent pre-feasibility level engineering study of its PhosEnergy process.
The patented PhosEnergy process is a new technology for the extraction of uranium from phosphoric acid streams generated in the production of phosphate-based fertilizers.
This process has been in use since Nov. 2009, when Uranium Equities announced it had secured funding of about $16.5 million through Cameco Corporation for the continued development and commercialization of the technology.
Historically, uranium production from phosphates was stopped mainly because of the high operating cost.
However, the PhosEnergy plant, located at the site of a 1Mtpa P2O5 phosphate facility in the southeast US, demonstrated cash operating cost of less than $18 per pound of U3O8.
These figures are at the lowest level in the uranium industry and close to the operating cost of most profitable in-situ leaching uranium production mines in Kazakhstan.
Uranium Equities estimates the global annual production potential of uranium from the phosphate industry is 20 Mlbs U3O8.
This quantity of uranium is mined in phosphate ores but not recovered annually on a worldwide basis.
Cameco Corporation, which is a leading uranium producer and supplier of nuclear fuel services, has completed its earn-in of 73% of the PhosEnergy process by committing to a further investment of $4 million.
These funds will be used for further development and should be sufficient to carry the project through completion of a definitive feasibility study.