GREEN RIVER — Sweetwater County commissioners agreed to sign documents Tuesday suspending principal payments for a struggling Sweetwater County uranium mine.
Roger Smith, president and chief financial officer of Ur-Energy, came before commissioners to explain difficulties facing the U.S. uranium industry that have affected the Lost Creek mine and to ask them to sign documents that would allow the company to make interest only payments for 18 months on a loan balance of $12.4 million. The original loan was for $34 million in 2013 to develop the Lost Creek facility.
Uranium imports have hit the industry hard, according to Smith. Ur-Energy joined with another U.S.-based uranium company, Energy Fuels, in petitioning the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to investigate the effect of uranium imports on national security and consider limiting uranium imports.
On July 12, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) found that imports of uranium are a threat to U.S. national security. Trump established the U.S. Nuclear Fuel Working Group to further study U.S. nuclear fuel production, including uranium mining, as the next phase of this investigation.
The memorandum did not, however, offer any current relief such as the domestic quotas suggested by the companies’ petition, according to a press release.
In August, Ur-Energy announced a reduction in force, primarily affecting employees at its Lost Creek facility. As a result of the White House decision to not take action at this time, the company said it was compelled to respond and initiate significant cost‐saving measures that included a reduction in force affecting 10 employees.
The release said that additional measures would be taken to streamline expenditures even further while the company awaits the outcome of the U.S. Nuclear Fuel Working Group’s efforts. Loan refinancing was one of those measures.
“We are as thin as we could be,” Smith told commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting.
Commission members unanimously approved documents amending the Lost Creek IDB Bond Loan (2013) and granting authority for the chair to sign the amendment to financing agreement, supplement to indenture, and amended and restated promissory note.
Commission Chairman Wally Johnson expressed his support for Lost Creek and and the U.S. uranium industry.
The Lost Creek mine in Sweetwater County develops uranium through in-situ recovery, a process that injects a chemical solution into mineralized sandstone to dissolve uranium. The uranium is then recovered and processed to produce yellowcake, a uranium concentrate used to develop nuclear energy.