Archive | United States Mining

Nuclear wasteland: The explosive boom and long, painful bust of American uranium mining – by Tom DiChristopher ( – August 4, 2018)

At the dawn of the atomic age, U.S. government incentives and trade barriers sparked a gold rush for uranium, the chemical element that was fueling the nuclear arms race at the time.

Now, 60 years later, American uranium miners want the government to use similar tools to prevent the collapse of the industry — and the few remaining U.S. companies still producing uranium for the nation’s fleet of nuclear power plants.

The numbers tell the tale. At the height of activity in 1980, U.S. companies produced nearly 44 million pounds of uranium concentrate and provided most of the supplies purchased by nuclear power plants. Last year, American miners produced 2.4 million pounds and supplied just 7 percent of the uranium bought by domestic plants. Continue Reading →

New Map Chronicles Three Decades of Surface Mining in Central Appalachia – by Jason Daley (Smithsonian Magazine – August 1, 2018)

Coal mining in Appalachia may bring to mind the archetypal soot-covered miner working deep underground. But in the last 30 years, a big percentage of coal mining has been done under the sun. Surface mining and a technique dubbed “mountaintop removal” have been controversial from the start for their use of explosives and heavy equipment to dig through soil and bedrock to get at coal seams from above.

Yet information about where and how much of this mining has taken place has been hard to come by. Now, reports Yessenia Funes at Earther, researchers have created a new mapping tool to quantify the impacts of surface mining in Appalachia.

Researchers from Duke University and the environmental nonprofits SkyTruth and Appalachian Voices used new web-based mapping tools and Landsat satellite imagery to study land use in the Appalachian coal belt over the last 31 years. They found that since the 1970s, surface mining has impacted 7.1 percent of central Appalachia. The research appears in the journal PLOS ONE. Continue Reading →

Hope and Change in an Alabama Coal Mine – by Elaina Plott (The Atlantic – July 31, 2018)

Buoyed by President Trump’s support for the industry, a veteran miner is putting his cash on the line and reopening his business.

BESSEMER, Ala.—It was hulking, it was orange, and its name was Trump. Randy Johnson looked on as his new 220-ton excavator carved up the ground, clearing the field of rocks to help unearth the coal underneath. Four weeks earlier, the central Alabama mine’s 22 employees had gathered to christen the $2.7 million purchase, painting “TRUMP” in white block letters along the excavator’s side.

The day I visited, a recent Friday in July, those letters gleamed under the punishing southern sun, the machine’s every move—every swivel at the base, every curl of the claw—an implicit tribute to the 45th president.

It’s tradition in the mining industry to name the “big machines.” Apart from the land itself, they represent the bulk of capital for a new site. For Johnson, though, this excavator was emblematic of much more. The 71-year-old Alabama native and mining veteran had bowed out of the industry in 2014, when he says the Obama administration’s “war on coal” pummeled the market. Continue Reading →

The cobalt blues: A rival closes in on Vancouver’s eCobalt amid delays and shareholder backlash – by Gabriel Friedman (Financial Post – July 31, 2018)

The more cobalt prices rise, the more pressure companies with cobalt projects face. On Monday, Vancouver-based eCobalt Solutions Inc. found itself under siege from Australian rival Jervois Mining Ltd, which announced it has acquired 4.7 per cent of its shares — the potential rumblings of a hostile take over.

The announcement comes two days after Australian hedge fund Tribeca Investment Partners sent a stern letter to eCobalt’s board, rebuking its management for “unnecessary” delays and mistakes as it seeks to build a cobalt mine in Idaho.

The letter, obtained by the Financial Post from an industry insider, highlights the eCobalt’s struggling stock price, calling for a sale of the company and a change in management. Continue Reading →

Trump’s Uranium Review Rattles Nuclear Utilities – by Stephen Lee (Bloomberg News – July 30, 2018)

The Trump administration’s hard look at uranium imports is already rattling nuclear utilities’ fuel-purchasing decisions. The Commerce Department said July 18 it would launch an investigation, at the behest of uranium mining companies Energy Fuels Inc. and UR-Energy Inc., into whether U.S. overreliance on imported uranium threatens national security.

Although it is still too early to measure the Commerce probe’s specific impacts, John Keeley, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, confirmed that some utilities “may be choosing to defer their contracting until there is more certainty with the outcome of the Department of Commerce’s review.”

To make nuclear fuel, uranium is extracted from rock and enriched, before being made into pellets that are loaded into assemblies of nuclear fuel rods. Continue Reading →

Trump’s aluminum tariffs are unlikely to produce a major smelter revival, experts say – by Daniel Dale (Toronto Star – July 28, 2018)

WASHINGTON—Three weeks after President Donald Trump proclaimed that America’s aluminum businesses were booming, “through the roof,” because of his tariffs, America’s largest aluminum producer made its quarterly earnings announcement.

Alcoa said it was still earning billions. But it also said it was lowering its profit forecast. Part of the reason: the tariffs, which it expected to cost $14 million (U.S.) a month. The company operates three smelters in Canada, which Trump declined to exempt.

Alcoa’s complaint highlighted the scant corporate support for the 10 per cent tariffs. Unlike Trump’s 25 per cent steel tariffs, which were endorsed by U.S. steelmakers, the industry group for the American aluminum industry is opposed to the aluminum tariffs. Continue Reading →

Indonesian government asked to recalculate Freeport mine damage – by Bernadette Christina Munthe (Reuters U.S. – July 25, 2018)

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s parliament has asked the government to recalculate damage to the environment from the giant Grasberg copper mine operated by the local unit of Freeport McMoRan Inc, the environment ministry said.

A 2017 report by Indonesia’s Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) calculated that Freeport’s decades-long operations at the mine in Indonesia’s remote easternmost province of Papua had caused environmental damage worth $13.25 billion.

That damage, it said, was largely a result of tailings from the mine that had extended beyond previously agreed limits and which had polluted coastal areas. Continue Reading →

Wyoming’s struggling uranium industry presses president for quotas on imports – by Heather Richards (Casper Star Tribune – July 23, 2018)

Two uranium companies with mines in Wyoming may get a boost from the Trump administration, forcing U.S. nuclear power plants to obtain more of their fuel from American producers.

Amidst sustained low prices for uranium, UR-Energy and Energy Fuels approached the Commerce Department with a proposal: investigate whether low-priced imports of uranium risk national security.

The department accepted that petition, noting the importance of uranium to domestic infrastructure and “weapons systems.” Officials have about nine months to offer a recommendation to the president on the companies’ contention of a national security risk and their proposed remedies: quotas on imports from countries like Russia and setting aside 25 percent of the domestic market for U.S. producers. Continue Reading →

Cut mining red tape to secure America – by Hal Quinn (Washington Examiner – July 20, 2018)

Hal Quinn is president and CEO of the National Mining Association.

America is more vulnerable today than it should be thanks to U.S. dependence on foreign minerals. The good news is that without resorting to government interventions such as tariffs or subsidies, Congress can boost domestic production of the minerals and metals that are so essential to our national security.

Instead, Congress can make us safer by reducing the heavy hand of government, bringing commonsense reform to our mine permitting process and allowing our miners to get to work producing the minerals and metals our military needs.

Included in the House defense authorization bill is a key minerals permitting provision that would streamline our mine permitting process by reducing redundancy in environmental reviews and providing clear review timelines. It deserves strong bipartisan support. Continue Reading →

A tenth of U.S. veteran coal miners have black lung disease: NIOSH – by Richard Valdmanis (Reuters U.S. – July 19, 2018)

(Reuters) – More than 10 percent of America’s coal miners with 25 or more years of experience have black lung disease, the highest rate recorded in roughly two decades, according to a government study released on Thursday that showed cases concentrated heavily in central Appalachia.

The study by researchers from the government’s National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health marks the most authoritative evidence to date of a resurgence of the incurable respiratory illness caused by coal dust, which plagued miners in the 1970s but was nearly eradicated by the 1990s.

“Although many consider black lung a disease of antiquity, it is undeniable that … these contemporary cases resulted from injurious exposures encountered in the 21st century,” the authors said in the report, published in the American Journal of Public Health. Continue Reading →

‘Everything is now fair game’: Canada unlikely to be spared from U.S. uranium protections – by Naomi Powell (Financial Post – July 19, 2018)

The United States Department of Commerce has launched an investigation to determine if uranium imports threaten national security, raising questions about whether Canadian producers will be exempted from any potential trade restrictions.

The investigation, which opens a new front in U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” trade campaign, “will canvass the entire uranium sector from the mining industry through enrichment, defense, and industrial consumption,” the commerce department said.

“Our production of uranium necessary for military and electric power has dropped from 49 per cent of our consumption to five per cent,” said commerce secretary Wilbur Ross. U.S. uranium production fell to 2.4 million pounds in 2017, down 61 per cent over the last decade, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Continue Reading →

U.S. to investigate Canadian uranium imports, citing national-security concerns – by Salmaan Farooqui (Globe and Mail – July 19, 2018)

The United States will investigate imports of uranium over national-security concerns, raising the prospect of damaging tariffs for Canadian producers of the metal.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Wednesday that the investigation was prompted by a petition from two U.S. uranium mining companies.

He pointed to a drop in U.S. production of uranium, which is used to power 99 commercial reactors, the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers, and in the country’s nuclear weapons arsenal. Continue Reading →

U.S. Opens Inquiry Into Uranium Imports in Sign That Trade War Is Spreading – by Ana Swanson and Brad Plumer (New York Times – July 18, 2018)

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said on Wednesday that it was starting an investigation into uranium imports, potentially opening another front in an expansive trade war that has shaken alliances with countries around the world.

Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, said the department would investigate whether imported uranium ore and related products — key ingredients in America’s nuclear arsenal, and used in power production and nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers — threatened national security.

Uranium produced domestically now fills only 5 percent of America’s needs, Mr. Ross said, down from half in 1987. The uranium inquiry is the latest of several trade-related steps the Trump administration has taken with an eye toward imposing stiff tariffs on imports. Continue Reading →

What you are getting wrong about Appalachia – by Leah Hampton (Los Angeles Times – July 18, 2018)

The history of Appalachia is one of exploitation and extraction — and dogged resistance to both. This region, my family’s home for seven generations, has literally powered American life since the 19th century. There is no song, labor union or machine built east of the Mississippi that does not arguably owe its existence to Appalachia or that at least engages with our culture and ecology.

The ecosystems of the mountain South, its uniquely influential art and its interdependent communities (particularly communities of color) have been systematically misrepresented and pillaged for centuries now. In these hills, “we’re accustomed,” says Elizabeth Catte in her debut nonfiction book, “What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia,” “to serving as passive subjects for others.”

Writers who set their work here are therefore responsible for embracing (or at least acknowledging) that history and for recognizing their own work as but a patch on a large, complex quilt, one that has been touched by both ravaging and patient hands. Continue Reading →

Guest view: Critical minerals and metals must come from Montana too – by Courtney Young (Montana Standard – July 16, 2018)

Courtney Young is a Lewis S. Prater Distinguished Professor and the department head of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering at Montana Tech.

Our country has a great abundance of mineral resources used to manufacture goods of all kinds. For weapons systems and consumer electronics, the value alone is estimated at $6.2 trillion; however, because cumbersome regulations and permitting processes hamper mining, we now rely on foreign suppliers for more than half of our needs.

The situation has become so dire that various government agencies assessed our supply and demand of minerals and metals and labeled many as critical materials.

The largest share is minerals imported from China or from mines elsewhere in the world that are owned by Chinese companies. For instance, we rely on China for over 96 percent of rare earth minerals that are needed in the production of military items such as night-vision goggles, advanced radar and electronic warfare systems, and precision-guided weapons. Continue Reading →