Indexed on: 24 Mar '13Published on: 24 Mar '13Published in: Natural Resources Research
Historic exploration and development were used to evaluate the reliability of domestic uranium reserves and potential resources estimated by the U.S. Department of Energy national uranium resource evaluation (NURE) program in the U.S. Gulf Coast Uranium Province. NURE estimated 87 million pounds of reserves in the $30/lb U3O8 cost category in the Coast Plain uranium resource region, most in the Gulf Coast Uranium Province. Since NURE, 40 million pounds of reserves have been mined, and 38 million pounds are estimated to remain in place as of 2012, accounting for all but 9 million pounds of U3O8 in the reserve or production categories in the NURE estimate. Considering the complexities and uncertainties of the analysis, this study indicates that the NURE reserve estimates for the province were accurate. An unconditional potential resource of 1.4 billion pounds of U3O8, 600 million pounds of U3O8 in the forward cost category of $30/lb U3O8 (1980 prices), was estimated in 106 favorable areas by the NURE program in the province. Removing potential resources from the non-productive Houston embayment, and those reserves estimated below historic and current mining depths reduces the unconditional potential resource 33% to about 930 million pounds of U3O8, and that in the $30/lb cost category 34% to 399 million pounds of U3O8. Based on production records and reserve estimates tabulated for the region, most of the production since 1980 is likely from the reserves identified by NURE. The potential resource predicted by NURE has not been developed, likely due to a variety of factors related to the low uranium prices that have prevailed since 1980.