By Sarah Pridgeon
Strata Energy broke ground last week on the Ross uranium project, located near Oshoto. Anticipating that the final license for the project will be issued shortly, pre-licensing construction is underway and production is expected in the second half of 2014.
Activity now visible at the site includes the earthworks necessary to prepare the roadways and building sites for the administration and central processing plant facilities. This will enable Strata to commence construction on the central processing plant and initial production wellfields immediately upon issuance of a Source Materials License (SML) from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), expected in March of 2014.
The SML is the last license remaining on the company’s four-year journey to obtain all permits for the project. The company has already secured a permit to mine from the Department of Environmental Quality, issued in November 2012, as well as a Deep Disposal Well License and an Air Quality Permit.
Strata submitted its application for the SML at the end of 2010, requesting authorization to construct and operate an in-situ uranium recovery facility. The submission followed 25 months of drilling, baseline testing, data analysis, resource modeling, process design and public outreach.
In March of this year, the NRC issued a draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Study for the central processing plant and permit area, concluding its environmental review and recommending that a Source Materials License be issued. Comments are now being incorporated into the draft prior to issuing the final document.
According to the draft document, the project will have benefits for the region that include increased employment, economic activity and tax revenues, while its drawbacks are largely limited to the immediate area and include small visual, air quality and noise impacts.
Crook County Natural Resource District supports expansion of the local economy, as long as it is conducted in an environmentally safe, secure, responsible and sustainable manner that does not compromise human health or negatively impact natural resources.
“Environmental conditions associated with uranium mining play a major role in the health of individuals and populations,” explains Sarah Anderson of CCNRD. “The more informed local stakeholders are about these environmental conditions, the more they can take proactive measures to protect themselves and their natural resources.”
CCNRD encourages landowners to contact the Wyoming Department of Agriculture for baseline water and/or soil testing for uranium, thorium and lead at a minimum. The district is remaining vigilant about uranium mining expansion into the Belle Fourche River watershed and the impact that expansion may have on the Total Maximum Daily Load studies being conducted.
“We encourage local stakeholders to educate themselves on new industries in Crook County,” says Anderson.
The construction phase of the Ross project is expected to involve around 200 workers, with a workforce of around 60 during operation. Strata has committed to hiring 90 percent of the construction workforce and 80 percent of operations staff locally.
The facility itself will include a central processing plant that houses the processing, drying, packaging and water treatment equipment, a chemical storage area and other storage, warehouse, maintenance and administration buildings. It will also include two double-lined surface impoundments, a sediment impoundment and five deep injection wells.
The project is expected to host up to 25 wellfield areas consisting of between 1400 and 2000 recovery and injection wells, surrounded by monitoring wells. Strata’s application also includes the option to operate for around 14 years beyond the life of the wellfields, processing uranium-loaded resins from projects operated by other companies.