Energy Fuels, the owner of the White Mesa Mill and mining properties in San Juan County, is hopeful that a new proposal in the federal budget could be a lifeline to the struggling uranium industry.
The budget proposal submitted by President Donald Trump includes $150 million for the creation of a uranium reserve.
While this is just the first step in the long budget process, it does represent a significant one for the struggling domestic producers of uranium.
It is estimated that more than 90 percent of the uranium used in the United States comes from foreign sources, including Khazakstan, Russia, and China.
Domestic producers, such as Energy Fuels, say the foreign products are being dumped on the U.S. market. They say these actions threaten the domestic producers of an item of critical strategic importance to the country.
Trump submitted a budget proposal that would establish a reserve that “provides assurance of availability of uranium in the event of a market disruption.”
According to a Reuters article, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette told reporters in a teleconference the budget represents a push by Trump to challenge the global expansion of nuclear power development by Chinese and Russian companies.
Trump “has decided that we’re going to meet them anywhere that they go around the world, and this … is the very first step that we will take to put the United States back into this competitive game,” Brouillette said.
Mark Chalmers, CEO of Energy Fuels, said establishing a reserve would “preserve our strategic capacity to produce uranium for national security purposes.”
It was anticipated that a recommendation for a reserve of some type would be included in the new budget after the Administration concluded its research.
Energy Fuels is one of the largest private employers in San Juan County.
The company recently laid off approximately one-third of its local workforce, including workers in its mines and at the White Mesa mill.
A version of this report was originally published in the San Juan Record.