Denison Mines Corp. [DML-TSX] on Wednesday announced a decision to advance its Wheeler River uranium project in Saskatchewan to the feasibility stage.
Denison is a uranium exploration and development company with interests focused in the Athabasca Basin region of northern Saskatchewan, including its 90%-owned Wheeler River project, which holds the high grade Pheonix and Gryphon uranium deposits (on the Wheeler River property).
On Wednesday, Denison said the Wheeler River joint venture has approved the initiation of an independent feasibility study for the in-situ recovery (ISR) mining operation proposed for the Pheonix uranium deposit.
Wheeler River is the largest undeveloped high-grade uranium project in the eastern portion of Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin. Proven and probable reserves at the site stand at 109.4 million pounds of U3O8. That includes 141,000 tonnes at 19.1% U3O8 or 59.7 million pounds in the Pheonix zone, and 1.26 million tonnes at 1.8% U3O8 or 49.7 million pounds in the Gryphon zone.
A NI 43-101 compliant pre-feasibility study was completed for Wheeler River in September, 2018. It is highlighted by the selection of the in-situ recovery mining method for the development of the Pheonix deposit, with an estimated average operating cost of US$3.33 per pound of U308.
“The ISR de-risking activities we’ve completed since the publication of the pre-feasibility study for Wheeler River in 2018 have been designed to support the completion of a future feasibility study, and the results to date have further confirmed the technical viability of the project, leading to the decision to advance the project and initiate the formal feasibility study process,” said Denison President and CEO David Cates.
“During this de-risking phase, we have been able to verify ore-body permeability and leachability of high-grade uranium in conditions representative of the ISR mining setting,” he said.
In-situ recovery involves processing the uranium while it is still in the ground through the injection of catalyzing agents into the ore.
In situ-recovery is only possible in porous geological formations (like sandstone) which are amenable to such a technique. On average, the capital spend needed to put an ISR uranium project into production is less than 15% of the cost to build a conventional hard-rock uranium mine.
The completion of the feasibility study is a critical step to the progression of the project and is intended to advance de-risking efforts to the point where the company will be able to make a definitive development decision.
Denison recently delivered a binding offer to Overseas Uranium Resources Development Co. Ltd. (OURD). It will result in Denison acquiring 100% ownership of OURD’s wholly-owned subsidiary, JCU (Canada) Exploration Co. Ltd.
JCU holds a portfolio of uranium project joint venture interests in Canada, including a 10% interest in the Wheeler River uranium project.
Denison shares eased 1.7% or $0.03 to $1.77 on volume of 3.2 million. The shares are currently trading in a 52-week range of $2.29 and 40.5 cents.