Uranium Energy Corp. (NYSE American: UEC) is a U.S.-based uranium mining and exploration company that controls one of the country’s largest historical uranium exploration and development databases. Founded in 2003, UEC is headquartered in Corpus Christi, Texas. Properties acquired by the company are primarily located within the United States, including Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Wyoming.
Through the use of historical exploration data, UEC has been able to target and acquire properties that have already been subject to exploration and development by senior energy firms in the past.
UEC is well-financed to aggressively pursue key developmental targets. The company is also well-positioned to capitalize on rising global demand for more uranium and more carbon-free energy, and it uses technology that contributes to a cleaner environment.
In-Situ Recovery (ISR) Technology
In-situ recovery (ISR) technology is a low-cost and environmentally friendly mining technology utilized by UEC at its fully licensed projects, including Palangana, Burke Hollow, Goliad and Reno Creek.
ISR technology involves the circulation of naturally occurring and benign groundwater through a uranium ore body. This natural water (that is unfit for any other use) plus oxygen is pumped into injection wells through the uranium ore body, where the uranium in the host sandstone is oxidized and solubilized. The uranium bearing groundwater continues to flow through the sandstone to the extraction wells, where it is pumped to the surface. This water proceeds to an ion exchange unit (like a big water-softener) for uranium removal, then is pumped back to the wellfield and again re-circulated through the ore body. This recirculation of the same groundwater continues over and over, until the uranium in the sandstone is depleted.
In the ion exchange process, the extracted uranium in solution is concentrated on resin beads for transport to the Hobson Processing Facility. There, the uranium then undergoes several simple processing steps before being dried and packaged as “yellowcake” that will be transported to a conversion facility, where its sold to UEC customers.
Hobson Processing Plant
Hobson is the centerpiece in UEC’s hub and spoke production strategy, with low-cost satellite ISR operations all within relatively short trucking distance. The plant is fully licensed and currently on standby with an annual production capacity of 2 million pounds of U3O8. The spokes of the UEC strategy include the Palangana, Burke Hollow, Goliad, Salvo and Longhorn ISR projects. With an improvement in uranium prices that justify production, UEC plans to restart the plant with uranium loaded resins originating first from Palangana and then followed by Burke Hollow. UEC has applied for a license amendment with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to increase the Hobson facility’s production capacity to 4 million pounds per year.
Uranium Energy’s current project portfolio includes:
- Texas – Hobson Processing Plant, Palangana Mine, Goliad, Burke Hollow, Salvo and Longhorn
- Wyoming – Reno Creek
- Paraguay – Oviedo, Yuty and Alto Paraná
- New Mexico – Dalton Pass and C de Baca
- Colorado – Long Park and Slick Rock
- Arizona – Anderson, Los Cuatros and Workman Creek
- Canada – Diabase
Uranium Market Outlook
The long-term fundamentals underlying the market continue to strengthen. Currently, UEC sees an annual gap of about 40 million pounds between uranium production and utility requirements. Current forecasts show this structural deficit persisting at least through 2026 and then expanding further to almost 70 million pounds per year by 2030. While secondary supplies have been filling the void, those supplies are not a sustainable long term supply source. There are different estimates on timing, but it is clear secondary supply (that includes inventory drawdowns) will be insufficient to fill the projected gap between supply and demand, and new production will be required. As this transition evolves, the market will become more production cost driven as opposed to inventory driven.
Higher priced contracts that have supported high production costs are continuing to roll out of producer and utility supply portfolios. These higher priced contracts are not replaceable, with current market prices below production costs for the vast majority of western producers. This will likely continue the trend of production cuts and deferrals until prices rise sufficiently to sustain long-term mining operations.
In the U.S., some of the foreign State-Owned Enterprise (“SOE”) supply that has been flooding the market will be reduced. Last year, the U.S. Department of Commerce negotiated an amendment to the Agreement Suspending the Antidumping Investigation on Uranium from the Russian Federation that reduces America’s dependence on Russian natural uranium concentrates by up to 75% from prior levels. Due to a prolonged weak pricing environment from an influx of price insensitive supply from SOEs, U.S. production is effectively zero, less than 1% of U.S. requirements.
On the demand side of the equation, further upside market pressure also appears likely to evolve as utilities return to a longer-term contracting cycle to replace expiring contracts. Over the longer term, there continues to be underlying and increasing demand building, as the globe continues a push toward carbon-free energy goals. Those goals will require the 24/7, base load, clean energy that nuclear power provides as part of the overall supply mix. A good example of that policy messaging came from Japan’s energy minister, who recently said he considers nuclear energy “indispensable” if the country is to meet its net-zero carbon emission goals.
Exacerbating the overall supply picture, lead times for new production typically range from seven to 10 years or longer. The market appears to be within the time frames required for investment to bring new supply online to meet those lead times. However, prices are not yet at levels that incentivize future production, increasing the probability of the potential for less supply than the market is currently pricing in. All things considered, UEC believes the supply and demand fundamentals should continue to exert upward pressure on uranium prices.
Spencer Abraham is Chairman of the Board for UEC. He served as the 10th U.S. Secretary of Energy from 2001 to 2005. He is an honors graduate of Michigan State University and Harvard Law School, and he was a law professor at the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law. He was elected chairman of the Michigan Republican Party in 1983 and later served as deputy chief of staff in the office of the vice president and as co-chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. In 1994, Mr. Abraham was elected to the United States Senate from Michigan and has also served as a director of Occidental Petroleum and as the non-executive chairman of AREVA’s U.S. board.
Amir Adnani is the Chief Executive Officer, President and Director of Uranium Energy. He advanced the company from concept to United States production within its first five years. Mr. Adnani has developed an extensive pipeline of low-cost and near-term production projects. He is the founder and Chairman of GoldMining Inc. (TSX: GOLD) (OTCQX: GLDLF), a gold-resources acquisition and development firm. He is also the Chairman of Uranium Royalty Corp. (TSX.V: URC). Mr. Adnani holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of British Columbia. He is a director of the University’s Alumni Association.
Scott Melbye is the company’s Executive Vice President. He is a 36-year veteran of the nuclear energy industry and has held numerous leadership positions in major uranium mining firms. He is also the current President, CEO and Director of Uranium Royalty Corp. He is an advisor to the Nuclear Energy Program at the Colorado School of Mines. Prior to his work at Uranium Participation Corp., Mr. Melbye worked for Cameco Inc. for 22 years. He received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a specialization in International Business from Arizona State University in 1984.
Bruce Nicholson is the company’s Vice President of Corporate Development. He has spent 16 years as a specialist in the industry, serving major United States and European banks, broker-dealers and investment funds. Mr. Nicholson is a member of the Minerals Economics and Management Society, Minerals Industry Analyst Group, and the New York Society of Securities Analysts. He graduated with an MBA in Finance from Rutgers University in 1995 and is a CFA charter holder.