Licensing Status – Fully Licensed and Operational
Licensing of ISR mines in Wyoming is conducted by two agencies: the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The licensing process is comprehensive and stringent, typically taking as long as 3-4 years to complete. A separate license application is completed for each agency. Both applications are available for public review and contain detailed descriptions and analysis of proposed mining and restoration methods. Once approved, the applications become the license or permit that governs how mining activities are conducted.
With the December 1, 2015 issuance of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s authorization to begin in-situ uranium recovery operations, the Ross Project has commenced production.
The following list details a brief history and current status of all major permits and licenses required for commencement of production at Ross:
US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
Status: Authorization to commencement production operations issued December 1, 2015
The NRC preoperational inspections were held during November 2015, and confirmed that the constructed plant and associated site systems up to the ion exchange columns, including wellfields, indicated that the plant is physically capable of conducting in-situ uranium recovery operations. The NRC also confirmed that written operating procedures and approved radiation safety and environmental monitoring programs were in place, and verified that preoperational testing was complete.
Combined Source and 11e.(2) Byproduct Material License
Status: License Issued April 2014
In April 2014 the NRC issued the final Combined Source and 11e.(2) Byproduct Material License (Source Material License or SML) to Strata for the Lance Central Processing Plant and Ross Permit Area.
Issuance of the SML concludes the licensing process for the three million pound per annum capacity CPP and the Ross Project. The SML is the culmination of a four-year permitting process involving multiple local, state and federal regulatory agencies.
To receive NRC approval, the application had to undergo three review processes: acceptance review (completed in June 2011); safety review, resulting in a Safety Evaluation Report (SER) (completed in March 2013 as detailed below); and concurrent environmental review, resulting in a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) (completed in February 2014 as detailed below).
Safety Evaluation Report
In March 2013* the NRC issued to Strata the SER for the Central Processing Plant and Ross Permit Area. The SER document acknowledges compliance of the Ross license application technical report with US regulations surrounding the receipt, possession and use of uranium byproduct and source materials.
The SER represents the conclusion of NRC technical review of the safety aspects of the application including:
- Site characterization
- Facility and process design
- Effluent controls and waste management
- Radiation safety plans and programs
- Groundwater protection
- Facility decommissioning and reclamation
- Accident analysis
*Based on additional input from Strata, NRC made minor modifications to the language of the report and issued a revised SER in January 2014, along with the 5th Draft SML.
On February 28, 2014, the NRC issued the final SEIS for the Central Processing Plant and Ross Permit Area.
The draft SEIS is a comprehensive review of the environmental aspects and mitigation measures of the Ross project. The document includes NRC staff analysis that considers and weighs the environmental effects of the proposed action, the environmental impacts of alternatives to the proposed action, and mitigation measures to either reduce or avoid adverse effects. The final SEIS presents the final conclusions of the NRC environmental review staff and cooperating agencies regarding the environmental impacts of the proposed project and also includes the NRC staff’s preliminary recommendation regarding the proposed action.
In preparing the final SEIS, NRC staff assessed the impacts of the Ross project and its alternatives on land use; historical and cultural resources; visual and scenic resources; climatology, meteorology and air quality; geology, minerals and soils; water resources; ecological resources; socioeconomics; environmental justice; noise; traffic and transportation; public and occupational health and safety; and waste management. Additionally, the final SEIS analyzes and compares the benefits and costs of the Ross project, and incorporated public comment received on the draft SEIS.
The NRC, having now concluded both the Safety and Environmental Reviews, is expected to issue the final SML for the Ross Project on March 31, 2014.
An official copy of the final SEIS is available on the NRC website. Please note that the file on the NRC site is quite large (59.1MB) and may take time to load. You may also view an optimized version of the document, which has been split into two parts for easier viewing: final SEIS (without appendices), and appendices for the final SEIS.
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ)
Permit to Mine
Status: License received November 2012
In November 2012, the WDEQ granted Strata a Permit to Mine (PTM) for the Ross Project. The issuance of this license concluded a major milestone in advancing the Ross Project toward production, and followed a thorough review by the WDEQ, as well as public notification and opportunities for public comment.
The PTM is required to conduct mining operations in the state of Wyoming. Issuance of the PTM allows Strata to begin allowable pre-SML construction at the project, including the development of deep disposal wells, monitoring wells and central processing plant site and civil works.
The PTM is the second of three key licenses required for advancement of the Ross ISR project. The first license was the Deep Disposal Well (DDW) permit granted in April 2011, as detailed below. The final license required before commencement of production is the SML issued by the NRC. As detailed above, Strata received the draft SML for the Ross ISR project in early November 2012.
Deep Disposal Well (DDW) Permit
Status: License received 13 April 2011
On April 13, 2011, Strata received approval from the WDEQ for the construction and testing of Underground Injection Control (UIC) Class 1 wells at the Ross Project.
The UIC permit is the first of three main licenses required for Strata to commence mining operations at the Ross Project, and a license that has caused delays for other developers in the region. The DDW license allows Strata to construct and test up to five such wells in the Ross permit area. These wells will be used to inject low-level wastes into an isolated rock formation at a depth in excess of 8,000 feet below the surface.
The issuance of the UIC permit follows a review by the WDEQ and United States Environmental Protection Agency as well as a public notification and comment period, and is the culmination of 30 months of detailed environmental, geological and hydrological data gathering and analysis by Strata.
The study and application was completed by Petrotek Engineering Corporation of Denver USA and was submitted to the WDEQ in July 2010.
Air Quality Permit
Status: Permit approved 13 September 2011
On September 13, 2011, the WDEQ granted Strata an Air Quality Permit for proposed construction operations at the Ross Project. Issuance of the permit followed a detailed technical review by the WDEQ/AQD of more than a year of baseline air quality monitoring, modeling and data analysis by Strata.