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(last updated 20 Nov 2020)


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Smith Ranch, Converse County (Wyoming)

> View deposit details
> See also: Cameco Resources Highland Uranium Project
> See also: North Butte / Ruth satellite facility
> See also: Reynolds Ranch
> See also: Ruby Ranch satellite facility project
> See also: Shirley Basin satellite facility project

 

> View more recent issues

NRC issues Notice of Violation to Cameco for deficiencies at Smith Ranch in situ leach uranium mine

"... the NRC has determined two Severity Level IV violations of NRC requirements occurred. The NRC determined the two violations are associated with: (1) a failure to post a radiation area; and (2) a failure to control access to radioactive material."
> Download Inspection Report and Notice of Violation, July 27, 2018 (PDF)

Cameco plans to discontinue U.S. uranium mining operations

> View here

On Apr. 2, 2018, Cameco notified NRC of the cessation of production at the Smith Ranch-Highland mine: "As of February 8, 2018, the Smith Ranch-Highland Mine had shut off all production and injection flow to Mine Units 3, 7, 9, 10, 10 Extension, 15, 15A, and J. Each of these mine units continue to operate a limited number of wells to maintain a small 'bleed' flow for control of mining fluids. There has been no change to the restoration plans at Smith Ranch-Highland and restoration activities will continue. [...]
Within the next 21 months, Cameco will submit Alternate Decommissioning Schedules for Smith Ranch-Highland and North Butte. [...] All production equipment will remain in standby to provide the option to restart full operations in the future should market conditions warrant. The above mentioned Alternate Decommissioning Schedule will include a request to defer equipment decommissioning and also an integrated restoration schedule for all mine units."
> Download: Cameco letter to NRC, Apr. 2, 2018 (PDF)

Cameco applies for relaxed standards for uranium and arsenic at decommissioning Mine Unit 1 of Smith Ranch in situ leach uranium mine

On Feb. 6, 2018, Cameco Resources submitted to NRC "an Alternative Concentration Limit (ACL) license amendment for the completion of restoration of Mine Unit 1 at the Smith Ranch-Highland Uranium Project, Source Material License SUA-1548. The proposed site-specific ACLs for uranium and arsenic are as low as reasonably achievable, after considering practicable corrective actions, and neither uranium nor arsenic will pose a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or the environment as long as the ACL is not exceeded. [...]"
> Download license amendment application

Yellow Cake spills from damaged drum shipped from Cameco's Smith Ranch in situ leach mine to Metropolis conversion facility

"On July 12, 2017, Cameco Resources shipped a load of yellow cake uranium (SR-Lot# 818) from the Smith Ranch-Highland Mine in Douglas WY, to Honeywell's Conversion facility in Metropolis, IL. [...] When the trailer was being unloaded at Honeywell's Conversion Facility, workers noticed that drum #35 had a small pinhole leak under the middle drum chime and that a small quantity of material (< 25 grams) had accumulated on the trailer floor." (Cameco Resources letter to NRC, Aug. 22, 2017)
According to Cameco's internal investigation, the drum had apparently been damaged during loading on the trailer at the Smith Ranch site, due to degrading of the drum grab and poor inspection practices.

NRC issues Confirmatory Order to Cameco for falsification of personnel contamination survey records at Smith Ranch in situ leach uranium mine

"The investigation confirmed that a licensee operations supervisor deliberately failed to maintain complete and accurate records of contamination exit surveys, contrary to the requirements in Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations 40.9, 'Completeness and accuracy of information.' Specifically, the operations supervisor filled out monitoring logs to indicate that personnel contamination surveys were performed on two contractors when the surveys were not performed." (NRC Notification of Significant Enforcement Action EN-16-023 , Sep. 28, 2016)

NRC issues Notice of Violation to Cameco for performing incorrect dose calculations at Smith Ranch in situ leach uranium mine

"[...] between 2006 through 2016 it was identified by the NRC that the licensee failed to calculate the committed effective dose equivalent to all significantly irradiated organs or tissues using the appropriate biological models. Specifically, the licensee used incorrect bioassay Intake Retention Fractions when calculating the committed effective dose equivalents for four individuals since 2006. The licensee did not attempt to demonstrate compliance using any other approved method from 10 CFR 20.1202(b)."
(NRC Inspection Report 040-08964/2016-001 and Notice of Violation, Nov. 23, 2016)

 

Leakages during waste sludge transports from Cameco's Smith Ranch in situ leach uranium mine to White Mesa mill

Waste sludge transports from Cameco's Smith Ranch in situ leach uranium mine to White Mesa mill halted after repeated leakages

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a Confirmatory Action Letter to Power Resources Inc. of Casper, Wyo., documenting actions that the company has agreed to take before resuming shipments of radioactive sludge to a Utah facility.
The letter formalizes commitments company officials made to the NRC following two incidents in which containers of radioactive barium sulfate sludge, a byproduct of uranium ore processing, arrived at the facility in Blanding, Utah, with some external contamination from leakage during transport. The incidents occurred in August 2015 and March 2016.
The NRC conducted an inspection of Power Resource's Smith Ranch-Highland Uranium Project facility 90 miles north of Casper, on June 20-23, and reviewed the two transportation incidents. The NRC determined that while the company took some corrective actions after the first incident, they were not fully effective.
> Download NRC release Aug. 31, 2016 (PDF)
> Download NRC Confirmatory Action Letter Aug. 30, 2016 (PDF)
> Download Description of the March 28/29, 2016, transport incident by Utah DEQ , April 26, 2016 (32.9MB PDF)

NRC cites Cameco for further violations with waste sludge transports leaving Smith Ranch in situ leach uranium mine

Based on the results of an inspection conducted from Nov. 15-17, 2016, nine apparent violations were identified and are being considered for escalated enforcement action in accordance with the NRC Enforcement Policy.
The apparent violations involved:
  1. the failure to accurately assess the activity of pond sediment and barium sulfate sludge waste shipments;
  2. the failure to adequately report the total activity for waste and resin shipments on the associated shipping documents;
  3. the failure to accurately label waste shipment packages;
  4. the failure to classify and ship the waste packages as Low Specific Activity level two (LSA-II) material;
  5. the failure to ship LSA-II waste material in appropriate containers;
  6. the failure to ensure by examination or appropriate tests that packages were proper for the contents to be shipped and closure devices were properly secured;
  7. the failure to perform evaluations or perform tests that ensured the transportation package would be capable of withstanding the effects of any acceleration and vibration normally incident to transportation;
  8. the failure to provide the name of each radionuclide listed and an accurate chemical description of contents; and
  9. the failure to provide function specific training to a hazmat employee concerning the requirements that are specifically applicable to the functions the employee performed.
(NRC Inspection Report Apr. 3, 2017 )

Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff will meet with officials from Cameco Resources of Casper, Wyo., on May 4 to discuss nine preliminary inspection findings regarding the shipment of low-level radioactive waste from one of its mining sites to a Utah disposal facility. (NRC News Release Apr. 25, 2017 )

On June 29, 2017, NRC issued a related Notice of Violation without proposing a civil penalty.

NRC permits resumption of waste sludge transports from Cameco's Smith Ranch in situ leach uranium mine to White Mesa mill

"In summary, based on our independent assessment of your corrective actions, the NRC has determined that PRI [Power Resources, Inc.] has satisfied the actions described in the CAL [Confirmatory Action Letter]. Therefore, the NRC considers the CAL closed. As such, PRI, may resume shipments of barium sulfate sludge material in accordance with its license." (NRC letter to Cameco, Aug. 25, 2017 )

 

Cameco defers wellfield development at Smith Ranch / Highland in situ leach uranium mine due to depressed uranium market

On Apr. 21, 2016, Cameco announced that production is being curtailed at Cameco Resources' US operations by deferring wellfield development. The changes are expected to result in a reduction of about 85 positions, including employees and long-term contractors.
The US operations will continue to employ about 170 people to operate existing facilities and restore depleted wellfields, but new wellfield development will be stopped. The US operations will continue ongoing licensing efforts to maintain the option to resume development when market conditions significantly improve.

Cameco study claims solubility type classification of yellow cake from in situ leaching is 100% "fast" - UPDATE

> View here

NRC issues temporary exemption from financial assurance requirements for Cameco's Smith Ranch-Highland in situ leach uranium mine

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing a temporary exemption from certain NRC financial assurance requirements to Power Resources, Inc., doing business as Cameco Resources (Cameco), in response to its annual financial assurance updates for its Smith Ranch-Highland In-Situ Recovery (ISR) project and the associated remote satellite facilities at Ruth and Gas Hills. Issuance of this temporary exemption will not remove the requirement for Cameco to provide adequate financial assurance through an approved mechanism but will allow the NRC staff to further evaluate whether the State of Wyoming's separate account provision for financial assurance instruments Cameco holds is consistent with the NRC's requirement for a standby trust agreement.
> Federal Register Volume 81, Number 45 (Tuesday, March 8, 2016) p. 12133-12134 (download full text )
> Access Docket ID NRC-2014-0092

State issus draft combined permit for disposal wells of Smith Ranch, Highland, and Reynolds Ranch uranium in situ leach mines

Submit comments prior to 5:00 P.M, August 24, 2015.
> View Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality bulletin July 24, 2015

Leaking deep disposal well at Smith Ranch in situ leach mine shut in after 20-month delay

During mechanical integrity tests (MITs) performed on May 2 and 3, 2013, a potential leak of Deep disposal well (DDW) #2 into an interval above the perforation and below the primary confining layer was identified:
"The initial temperature log from Part II MIT raised some concerns as it suggested possible fluid storage behind the casing in an interval above the top perforations. Further evaluation of the logs indicate that under test conditions approximately 30% of the injected flow is exiting the casing through a hole above the first perforation, but below the packer in the vicinity of 8,222' - 8,255' KB (see Figure 1). Based on these initial results SR DDW #2 was shut in and WQD [Water Quality Division of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality] was notified on May 6, 2013."
The well was restarted on May 8, 2013, after "it was determined that WQD did not believe that a failure of the MIT occurred".
After further evaluations, it was found that "Injection fluid has flowed outside of the intended discharge zone through a hole in the casing that developed sometime between 2008 and 2013". Cameco determined on January 15, 2015, that the well should be shut-in.
Cameco subsequently submitted a plan for the workover of the deep disposal well.
(Supplemental Report on Smith Ranch Deep Disposal Well #2 , Cameco, June 5, 2015, ML15174A314, 9.4MB PDF)

Cameco now also involved in tax dispute with the United States

> View here

Nichols Ranch uranium in situ leach mine sends first uranium-loaded resin to Cameco's Smith Ranch plant for processing

> View here

Cameco requests combined state permit for existing Smith Ranch, Highland, and proposed Reynolds Ranch in situ leach mines

Power Resources, Inc. d/b/a Cameco Resources of Cheyenne, Wyoming has applied for an in situ mining permit amendment from the Land Quality Division of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality of the State of Wyoming.† The purpose of this proposal is to combine the existing Smith Ranch Mine and Highland Uranium Project (SRH) permits (Permits 633 and 603) and add as an amendment, the Reynolds Ranch property (approximately 8,565 acres) under a single permit i.e., Permit 633 when the amendment is approved.
Prior to mining, the groundwater in the production zone will be reclassified by the Water Quality Division of the Department of Environmental Quality, as Class V (Mineral Commercial).
Written objections to the proposed mining operation and proposed reclassification of groundwater/aquifer exemption must be received before the close of business, February 10, 2014 (date revised).
Wyoming DEQ approved the consolidation of Permit 603 into Permit 633 and the amendment of new lands (Reynolds Ranch) on March 10, 2014.

NRC issues Notice of Violation to Cameco for deficiencies at Smith Ranch - Highland in situ leach uranium mine

"[...] on January 23, 2013, two sub-contractor welders failed to work under a Radiation Work Permit while removing overhead beams in the former yellowcake dryer room in the Highlands Central Processing Plant. This work was non-routine with the potential for exposure to residual yellowcake for which no written operating procedure already existed. Consequently, both individuals received intakes of uranium exceeding the action level of 15 micrograms of uranium per liter of urine (ug/L), as confirmed by positive bioassays, while working in this area. The bioassay results were 22.2 and 24.7 ug/L."
(NRC Inspection Report 040-08964/13-001 and Notice of Violation, July 17, 2013)

Wyoming DEQ inspection finds "potential for violations" at Cameco's Smith Ranch - Highland in situ leach uranium mine

"The inspection of the header houses in Wellfield F provided insight into the extent of the casing leak issues identified in the Administrative Order issued in August 2000. It became apparent during the inspection that not only were many wells identified with casing breaks and joint failures through the Administrative Order, but also, many pipelines and bell holes were affected with many infrastructure failures requiring replacements. This is a potential violation of the Noncoal Rules and Regulations [...].
There are numerous header houses in Wellfield F that indicate a bleed is not being maintained to control the fluids of the mining zone in many pattern areas. This is indicated where the header houses are stripped of pipes and connections to the wellfields. [...] A review of the excursion history in the wellfield indicates two confirmed excursions; one in 2002 and one in 2009. If these excursions were the result of failure to maintain the bleed in the wellfield, they could be perceived as violations of this regulation. [...]" [emphasis added]
> Download June 2012 Inspection Report , July 28, 2012

 

License Renewal for Smith Ranch (Wyoming) in-situ leach site

NRC issues 10-year license renewal for Cameco's Smith Ranch in situ leach uranium mine:
> Federal Register Volume 83, Number 191 (Tuesday, October 2, 2018) p. 49594-49596 (download full text )
> Download: NRC cover letter to Cameco , Sep. 26, 2018 (PDF)
> Download: NRC License Number SUA-1548 , Sep. 26, 2018 (PDF)

NRC releases Final Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for license renewal of Cameco's Smith Ranch in situ leach uranium mine:
> Federal Register Volume 83, Number 186 (Tuesday, September 25, 2018) p. 48461-48463 (download full text )
> Download: Final Environmental Assessment for the proposed renewal of Source Materials License No. SUA-1548, Smith Ranch-Highland Uranium Project in Campbell, Converse, Fremont, Johnson, and Natrona Counties, Wyoming, Docket No. 40-8964 , September 2018 (2.2MB PDF)
> Download: Safety Evaluation Report, License Renewal for the Smith Ranch Highland Uranium Project , September 2018 (3.2MB PDF)

NRC invites comment on Draft Cultural Resources Sections of Environmental Assessment for license renewal of Cameco's Smith Ranch in situ leach uranium mine:
Submit comments by September 7, 2018.
> View NRC announcement Aug. 9, 2018
> Download Draft Cultural Resources Sections of Environmental Assessment (126kB PDF)

On Sep. 19, 2012, NRC announced an Opportunity To Request a Hearing and To Petition for Leave To Intervene.
Requests for a hearing or leave to intervene must be filed by November 19, 2012.
> Federal Register Volume 77, Number 182 (Wednesday, September 19, 2012)] p. 58181-58185 (download full text )
> Access Docket ID NRC-2012-0214

By letter dated July 5, 2012, NRC accepted Cameco's revised license renewal application for review.

On June 15, 2012, NRC released Cameco's license renewal application for its Smith Ranch in situ leach uranium mine.
> Download license renewal application

 

Wyoming DEQ issues Notice of Violation to Cameco for deficienies identified at Smith Ranch in situ leach uranium mine - Cameco agrees to pay $20,000

"It was discovered that an improved road, two monitoring wells and a water supply pond were located outside the permit boundary in Section 7, T35N, R74W. The pond is not approved as a water supply pond in Permit 633. In addition, the monitoring wells were noted to have insufficient covers to prohibit the introduction of undesirable material."
> Download Notice of Violation, Docket No. 4998-12, May 18, 2012 (PDF - WY DEQ)
In a settlement agreement concluded on Nov. 1, 2012, Cameco agrees to submit an application to amend Permit 633 to include the off-site affected areas into the permit, among others. Cameco further agrees to pay US$ 20,000 "to fund a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) related to insitu uranium mining".
> Download Settlement Agreement, Docket No. 4998-12, Nov. 1, 2012 (PDF - WY DEQ)

Cameco requests exemption from groundwater restoration schedules at Smith Ranch in situ leach uranium mine

By letter dated March 15, 2012 , Cameco requested from NRC an exemption from the requirement to complete groundwater restoration within 24 months, because "the imposition of such precise, prescriptive timeframes to groundwater restoration in aquifers that are part of natural systems is not practicable/reasonably achievable".
By letter dated June 22, 2012 , NRC refused to review the exemption request, since it is incomplete. NRC notes in particular the missing of a description of how the exemption would not endanger life, property, or common defense and security, and, how it would be in the public interest. NRC explicitly expresses its dissatisfaction with the progress of groundwater restoration at the Smith Ranch site:

Cameco plans to test extraction of uranium from ion exchange resins generated at phosphate mining facilities

On Aug. 20, 2013, NRC held a public meeting with Cameco Resources and Urtek to discuss licensing issues related to recovery of uranium from phosphoric acid and processing of equivalent feed. Urtek is developer and owner of the patented PhosEnergy Process; the company is owned by Cameco (73%) and Uranium Equities Ltd (27%).

On May 30, 2012, Cameco Resources sent an Advanced Notification of Processing of Equivalent Feed to NRC. Cameco plans to perform bench tests with resins from "an industrial phosphoric acid circuit" at a pilot plant at Smith Ranch. (ADAMS Acc. No. ML12157A071)

On Oct. 27, 2011, Cameco Resources' Safety and Environmental Review Panel (SERP) approved a test to determine if resins loaded with uranium from a phosphate plant could be effectively stripped at the Smith Ranch-Highland Central Processing Plant.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a summary RIS regarding equivalent feed in the Federal Register September 30, 2011 for comment. The test cannot take place until the RIS is approved and officially released by the NRC.
(Semi-Annual Effluent and Environmental Monitoring Report, July 1 through December 31, 2011, ADAMS Acc. No. ML12087A157)

Uranerz signs agreement with Cameco on processing of Nichols Ranch resin at Smith Ranch

On Nov. 30, 2011, Uranerz Energy Corporation announced that it has signed a processing agreement with Cameco Resources, a wholly-owned Wyoming subsidiary of Cameco Corporation. Under the agreement, Uranerz will deliver uranium-loaded resin produced from the Company's Nichols Ranch in-situ recovery mining operations to Cameco's Smith Ranch Highland uranium mine for final processing into dried uranium concentrate packaged for shipping to a converter.

Many compliance concerns identified during inspection of Cameco's Highland / Smith Ranch in situ leach uranium mine

"Through the April and June 2011 inspections of the permits, the LQD identified many compliance concerns with regard to drill hole and well abandonment, open and uncapped drill holes and wells, topsoil salvage and protection, erosion and sediment control, drilling without notification or approval of notification and compliance with the wellfield restoration schedule. Additional concerns identified through self-reporting of missed sampling events, failure to report a significant spill, abatement of spills and surety deficiencies has compounded the compliance issues from the inspections."
> Download June 2011 Inspection Report & Compliance Concerns - Cameco Resources, Permits 603 & 633 (Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Oct. 21, 2011)

Numerous violations identified during inspection of Cameco's Highland / Smith Ranch in situ leach uranium mine

During an NRC inspection conducted on August 29 through September 1, 2011, three violations of NRC requirements were identified: "The violations are related, a) to your failure to store byproduct waste bins within a restricted area, as required by a license condition, b) your failure to provide the NRC with copies of excursion and spill that had been reported to the State of Wyoming, as required by a license condition, and c) failure to have an alarm to notify wellfield operators that an exceedence had occurred, as required by the license application."
> Download NRC Inspection Report 040-08964/11-002 and Notice of Violation, Oct. 25, 2011

Numerous deficiencies identified during inspection of abandoned drill holes at Cameco's Highland / Smith Ranch in situ leach uranium mine

During an inspection of abandoned drill holes conducted on April 20 and 21, 2011, at Cameco Resources Inc.'s Highland / Smith Ranch in situ leach mine site, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality identified several compliance issues which are recommended for enforcement actions. Among these are in particular (emphasis added): > Download: April 2011 Inspection Report, Cameco Resources, Permits 603 & 633 , Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, June 13, 2011 (18.1MB PDF - ADAMS Acc. No. ML11173A106)

Cameco ordered to officially report spill at Smith Ranch in situ leach uranium mine

In a letter dated May 25, 2011, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality ordered Cameco to officially report a spill in mine unit K-North that Cameco had considered as not reportable.

Cameco study claims solubility type classification of yellow cake from in situ leaching is 100% "fast"

> View here

Wyoming DEQ invites comment on modified permit for deep disposal wells at Smith Ranch/Highland ISL mine

Power Resources, Inc., dba Cameco Resources located at the Smith Ranch-Highland Disposal Wellfield in Converse, Wyoming. This permit modifies an existing permit for seven Class 1 non-hazardous waste disposal wells. This modification is undertaken at the Administrator's initiative primarily to require a more relevant list of analytes and parameters for the quarterly injectate analyses. The financial assurance is clarified and other modifications are summarized in the Public Notice.
The public is invited to comment on this draft permit until March 17, 2011.
> Download Public Notice Feb. 15, 2011 (170k PDF) · Draft Permit 09-054 (514k PDF)

Cameco submits license renewal application for Smith Ranch-Highland uranium in situ leach mine

> Download license renewal application, Aug. 12, 2010 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML102360313)
On Jan. 19, 2011, NRC notified Cameco that "the staff is suspending its review of the LRA [license renewal application] and will provide PRI an opportunity to correctly address the groundwater restoration standards, timeliness in decommissioning requirements".

NRC cites Cameco for failure to decommission in-situ leach mine units at Smith Ranch in time

On Nov. 16, 2009, NRC cited Power Resources, Inc. for failure to decommission mine units within 24 months:
"[...] the licensee failed to complete decommissioning of Mine Units 1 and C within 24 months and failed to request an alternate decommissioning schedule. Specifically, the licensee began decommissioning of Mine Unit 1 during July 2006 and Mine Unit C during May 1999, both of which continue to be decommissioned, and the licensee had not requested an alternate decommissioning schedule until August 13, 2009."
> Download NRC inspection report and Notice of Violation, Nov. 16, 2009 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML093200711)

Cameco requests alternate schedules for completion of groundwater restoration up to 2025 at Smith Ranch ISL mine

On Aug. 13, 2009, Cameco Resources sent a Request for Alternate Schedule for Completion of Decommissioning (Groundwater Restoration) at its Smith Ranch - Highland site to NRC. Due to disposal water capacity limits, the completion of restoration at seven wellfields is expected to be delayed for several years, including up to the year 2025 in one case. (ADAMS Acc. No. ML092330083 )

State invites public comment on proposed license for deep disposal wells at Smith Ranch/Highland ISL mine

The State of Wyoming intends to issue an underground injection control permit for the disposal of non-hazardous industrial wastewater at the Smith Ranch/Highland ISL uranium mine. The wells will inject industrial wastes, including uranium processing wastes, into the Tekla, Teapot and Parkman Formations. The wells covered by this permit inject at depths between 8,024 to 9,560 feet below ground surface. The injection volumes are limited to a maximum of 3,600 barrels per day per well representing a total maximum injection volume of 25,200 barrels (1,058,400 gallons = 4,006 cubic metres) per day.
Public comments on the proposed operation, the proposed groundwater classification, and the State's intent, are invited on or before September 8, 2009.

> Download DEQ Public Notice Aug. 2009 (PDF)
> Download Draft Permit August 2009 (PDF)

NRC staff finds no problem with groundwater impacts of existing in-situ leach uranium mines

> View here

NRC issues Notice of Violation to Cameco Resources for deficienies identified at Smith Ranch ISL mine

Based on the results of an unannounced inspection conducted on September 23-25, 2008, the NRC has determined that three Severity Level IV violations of NRC requirements occurred at the Smith Ranch facility. The violations involve > Download Inspection Report 040-08964/08-002 and Notice of Violation (Nov. 25, 2008) (ADAMS ML083310300)

DEQ issues Notice of Violation to Cameco Resources for deficienies identified during abandoned drill hole inspection

On Sep. 3, 2008, Cameco agreed to pay a $50,000 settlement.

> Download: Notice of Violation NOV #4314-08, July 17, 2008 (PDF) · alternate source
> Download: Inspection Report, July 7, 2008 (PDF) · Photos (4.3M PDF)
> Download: Settlement Agreement, Aug. 29, 2008 (PDF)
> Download Notice of Compliance, Dec. 11, 2014 (PDF)

Cameco Resources requests license amendment for the processing of third-party resin at its Smith Ranch - Highland in-situ leach mine

On Sep. 15, 2009, NRC issued the requested License Amendment.

On Aug. 20, 2009, NRC issued a Notice of Availability of Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for License Amendment for Receipt and Processing of Third Party Ion Exchange Resin at the Smith Ranch - Highland in-situ leach mine.
Federal Register: August 20, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 160) p. 42129-42130 (download full text )

On Aug. 12, 2009, NRC staff released its Final Environmental Assessment (EA) for the processing of third-party resin at Cameco Resources' Smith Ranch - Highland in-situ leach mine. The EA contains a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).

On July 23, 2008, NRC staff "determined that the application is not sufficiently complete, and is therefore unacceptable, for the purpose of conducting a detailed technical review. The application is deficient because of the lack of an environmental analysis of the potential impacts of transportation of third-party resins to the SR-HUP for processing and subsequent return to the third party."

On June 19, 2008, Cameco Resources requested a license amendment for the processing of third-party resin at its Smith Ranch - Highland Uranium Project. According to Cameco Resources, processing of resin from third parties will not exceed currently approved levels of activity in terms of pounds processed annually or flow rates for production solutions from wellfields.

Wyoming DEQ denounces poor environmental compliance at Smith Ranch/Highland in situ leach mine, issues Notice of Violation to PRI for failure to conduct concurrent reclamation

On March 10, 2008, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a Notice of Violation to PRI for failure to conduct concurrent reclamation and to follow approved permits at the Smith Ranch/Highland in situ leach mine:
a. The permit indicates that "An updated schedule will be supplied with the annual report if the mining or restoration schedule varies from Table 3-1." The timetable commitments in the permit are not consistent with wellfield status. Therefore, the table in the annual report is the schedule that PRI is committed to for wellfield status. Based on this table, PRI is not in compliance with their restoration schedules for Wellfields 2, 3, and 4/4A. The annual report text indicates that Wellfield 2 will continue to be in production, while the annual report schedule referred to in the permit shows that it will be in restoration in 2008. Wellfields 3 and 4/4a should be in restoration instead of production.
b. The permit states that it generally takes "three years for uranium production, and three years for aquifer restoration." Actual times for wellfield production and restoration are, thus far, 2-3 times longer than permit commitments. [emphasis added]

The Notice of Violation is based on an investigation conducted in 2007. The Investigation Report, dated Nov. 21, 2007, also lists a number of further issues. Here some excerpts:

On July 10, 2008, Cameco announced that a settlement agreement has been reached with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. The agreement comprises several steps to accelerate restoration, and increases the bond for Smith Ranch and Highland to $ 80 million, among others. Cameco agrees to pay a $900,000 penalty, $400,000 of which will be suspended, if Cameco satisfies the terms of the agreement. In addition, Cameco will pay $500,000 "to fund future, unspecified Supplemental Environmental Projects".

> Download Notice of Violation and Investigation Report, March 10, 2008 (NRC ADAMS Acc. No. ML080840311)
> Download NOV #4231-08 (PDF) · Report of Investigation Nov. 21, 2007 (2.6M PDF) (WY DEQ)
> Download Settlement Agreement July 8, 2008 (254k PDF) (WY DEQ)

> See also PRI Highland decommissioning issues

NRC issues Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for in situ leach satellite facility at Smith Ranch

On Dec. 28, 2007, NRC issued an Environmental Assessment for the construction and operation of in situ leach satellite plant SR-2 at Smith Ranch. "On the basis of this EA, NRC has concluded that there are no significant environmental impacts and the licensing action does not warrant the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement."

Federal Register: January 8, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 5) p. 1367-1370 (download full text )
> View docket NRC-2008-0011 (regulations.gov)
On Jan. 10, 2008, NRC issued the requested license amendment.

NRC issues Notice of Violation to PRI for appointment of unqualified radiation safety officer at Smith Ranch

On Dec. 11, 2007, NRC issued a Notice of Violation to PRI for the appointment of an individual to the position of radiation safety officer at Smith Ranch, although the individual did not possess the education or relevant experience requirements.

Cameco to increase production from Crow Butte and Smith Ranch-Highland by 70%

On Dec. 4, 2007, Cameco announced that it is targeting to increase the combined production at its Crow Butte and Smith Ranch-Highland in-situ leach operations by 70% to 4.6 million pounds U3O8 [1,769 t U] annually by 2011. The planned production increase requires the restart of the idle Highland uranium recovery plant.

Wyoming DEQ issues Notice of Violation to PRI on deep disposal well spill at Smith Ranch ISL site

On Nov. 28, 2007, The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality issued a Notice of Violation to Power Resources Inc. based on the deep disposal well spill reported by PRI on August 24, 2007 to the Land Quality Division (LQD).

> Download NOV #4164-07 (PDF) · Settlement Agreement (PDF)

Uranium One Inc. concludes toll milling agreement with Power Resources Inc.

On Aug. 21, 2007, Uranium One Inc. announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement with Power Resources Inc. (PRI), the U.S. subsidiary of Cameco Corporation, whereby PRI will process uranium bearing ion exchange resins from Uranium One's owned and operated in situ recovery (ISR) projects in Wyoming.
Under the terms of the agreement, Uranium One will transport uranium bearing ion exchange resins from its uranium mining operations to PRI's Smith Ranch-Highland uranium facilities, or an alternate facility owned and operated by PRI or an affiliate of PRI located in the States of Wyoming or Nebraska, for processing and production of up to 1.4 million pounds [538 t U] per year of dried uranium concentrates. PRI must amend their operating licenses to accept uranium bearing resins from Uranium One. This amendment is subject to approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Initial Uranium One production is expected to be sourced from the Moore Ranch Project, located approximately 50 miles north of the Smith Ranch-Highland complex, with additional production expected to be sourced from the Allemand-Ross, Barge and Ludeman projects which are also located in close proximity to Smith Ranch-Highland.

Southwest area deep disposal well project

On Jan. 22, 2007, PRI submitted to Wyoming DEQ an application for a Southwest area deep disposal well. This well will inject wastewater from an in-situ leaching uranium mine and other industrial wastes into the Lance Formation. The well covered by this permit injects at depths between 4,750 to 7,000 feet [1448 - 2134 m] below ground surface. The waste contains uranium residuals and significant amounts of Total Dissolved Solids and other contaminants. The maximum injection pressure as measured at the wellhead is limited to 1,156 psi [79.7 bar] for SWA DW No. 1. The injection volumes are limited to 5,143 barrels [818 cubic metres] per day.
Public comments were due Oct. 1, 2007.

Reynolds Ranch ISL project to be included in Smith Ranch license

> See here

Smith Ranch acquired by Cameco

Cameco Corporation announced on June 19, 2002, that it has agreed, through its subsidiaries, to purchase the Smith Ranch uranium in situ leach (ISL) mine and various other ISL properties located in Wyoming from BHP Billitonís subsidiary Rio Algom Mining LLC (Rio Algom).
The agreement is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close within 45 days. (Cameco release June 19, 2002)

License Renewal for Smith Ranch (Wyoming) in-situ leach site

Federal Register: May 4, 2001, p. 22620-22622 (download full notice ):
"SUMMARY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) proposes to renew NRC Source Material License SUA-1548 to authorize the licensee, Rio Algom Mining Corporation (RAMC), to continue commercial operations of its in situ leach (ISL) Rio Algom Smith Ranch Uranium Recovery Project in Converse County, Wyoming. This license currently authorizes RAMC to receive, acquire, possess, and transfer uranium at the Rio Algom Smith Ranch Project, which is located approximately 17 miles (27 Kilometers) Northeast of Glenrock, Wyoming. An Environmental Assessment (EA) was performed by the NRC staff in support of its review of RAMC renewal request, in accordance with the requirements of 10 CFR part 51. The conclusion of the Environmental Assessment is a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the proposed licensing action."

License violations and reportable events at Smith Ranch in-situ leaching site

post Sep. 30, 2018: withheld (after Wyoming became an NRC agreement state) (details available through ADAMS , Docket No. 04008964)

> For reports on many more spills, download WY DEQ's spill databases !

Startup of Smith Ranch in-situ leaching facility

Commercial operations have started at Rio Algom's Smith Ranch, Wyoming, in situ leach project on 20th June, 1997. [UI News Briefing 97/26]


Cameco Resources Highland Uranium Project, Converse County

> View deposit info
> Cameco Resources (formerly Power Resources, Inc.)
> See also: Highland ISL decommissioning issues
> See also: Smith Ranch

 

Wyoming DEQ assesses impact of usage of failed injection well at Cameco's Highland in situ leach uranium mine

The Land Quality Division (LQD) requested in letter dated December 9, 2013, that Cameco Resources schedule a meeting with the LQD by January 10, 2014, to address the impacts of using wells converted to injection use without conducting and passing a mechanical integrity test (MIT). The LQD is considering a Notice of Violation for the lack of a successful MIT for DP-022. (Wyoming DEQ March 4, 2014)

Cameco requests combined state permit for existing Smith Ranch, Highland, and proposed Reynolds Ranch in situ leach mines

> View here

State regulator issues Notice of Violation for deficiencies resulting in excursion at Cameco's Highland in situ leach uranium mine

The Notice of Violation is the result of a lack of operational controls to control wellfield mining fluids resulting in an excursion outside of the aquifer exemption boundary. These violations were identified during the June 2011 Land Quality Division (LQD) Inspection.
> Download: Notice of Violation, March 5, 2013: WY DEQ LQD · NRC ADAMS (PDF)

Uranium company appealing Wyoming DEQ decision: State environmental regulators and a uranium company are at odds over whether the company allowed precursors of uranium contamination to seep into test water wells near their field. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality served Cameco Resources with a violation notice in early March. Agency officials and Cameco are in discussions about the notice. The violation occurred after data indicated a split in a well casing, according to Robin Jones, land quality supervisor for DEQ District 1. The state says faulty equipment contributed to the spread of lixiviant, a solution used to leach uranium from the ground.
But officials with Cameco question the state's judgment in calling what happened a violation. "We believe it was issued prematurely," company spokesman Ken Vaughn said. "We conducted tests, including the installation of an adjacent test well, which indicated there was no lateral movement of mining solution in the area." (Casper Star-Tribune Apr. 22, 2013)

On Aug. 31, 2015, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality issued a Notice of Compliance and Termination of Notice of Violation.
> Download: Notice of Compliance, Aug. 31, 2015 (PDF)

Many compliance concerns identified during inspection of Cameco's Highland / Smith Ranch in situ leach uranium mine

> View here

Reopening of Cameco's Highland processing plant for resin stripping

Cameco presents plan for Phase I of the Highland Plant Renovation: Cameco Resources (Cameco) has initiated planning to increase U3O8 (yellowcake) production capacity of the Wyoming and Nebraska In-Situ Recovery (ISR) mines. Included in this plan is the need to receive toll shipments from various NRC licensed facilities to elute their resin in addition to Cameco's own satellite facilities. The loaded resin is to be shipped from each NRC licensed processing operation to the Highland facility for resin stripping and barren resin return to originator. The demolition portion of the plan is a two phase approach to achieve the goal; Phase I, Project Infrastructure Installation and Up-Grade; Phase 2, Plant Building Interior Demolition, and Phase 3 [!?], the Highland Dryer Demolition.
This plan, Phase 1, includes the re-habilitation of the Highland Processing Plant from the existing standby condition, modernization of the building services, and installation a Contractor support facility consisting of office trailer utilities and a new electrical substation.
(Phase I of the Highland Plant Renovation , Cameco Sep. 15, 2011)

Numerous deficiencies identified during inspection of abandoned drill holes at Cameco's Highland / Smith Ranch in situ leach uranium mine

> View here

State regulator requests investigation of possible impacts of long-term excursion at Cameco Highland in situ leach uranium mine

In a "Letter of Conference and Conciliation" dated May 17, 2011, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality Land Quality Division requested Cameco Resources (CR) to perform additional groundwater monitoring in the aftermath of an excursion at monitor well CM-32 that was first reported on July 10, 2007:
"The Land Quality Division (LQD) has conducted a review of the records for Well-CM-32 which was on excursion from July 2007 through April 2011. During the review it was discovered that the location of CM-32 is within several hundred feet of the aquifer exemption boundary and the permit boundary. As a result of the injection of restoration fluid into the wellfield, subsequent to the onset of the excursion, there is concern that the lack of control of the excursion for almost four years may have caused fluid migration outside the exemption boundary." [...]
"CR is required to investigate the extent of the excursion beyond the monitor well ring and the proximity to the aquifer exemption boundary and the permit boundary. A minimum of two monitor wells to investigate the extent of the excursion will be required."
> Download Wyoming DEQ Letter of Conference and Conciliation, Excursion at CM-32, May 17, 2011 (294k PDF)

Wyoming DEQ issues Notice of Violation to Cameco Resources for multiple failures at Highland ISL site; Cameco pays $13,000 fine

On Dec. 8, 2009, Wyoming DEQ issued a Notice of Violation to Cameco Resources for failure to report a monitor well excursion, among others, at the Highland ISL site.
In a settlement agreement, Cameco agreed to pay $13,000.
> Download Notice of Violation Dec. 8, 2009 (658k PDF)
> Download Settlement Agreement #4598-09, Jan. 27, 2010 (1.5M PDF)

Wyoming DEQ issues Notice of Violation to Cameco Resources for failure to report excursion at Highland ISL site; Cameco pays $5000 fine

On Jan. 23, 2009, Wyoming DEQ issued a Notice of Violation to Cameco Resources for failure to report a solution excursion at the Highland ISL site: "an excursion was discovered by LQD in sampling data reported on September 4, 2008. The report indicated well CM-14 had exceeded all upper control limit parameters during that sampling event."
In a settlement agreement, Cameco agreed to pay $5000.
> Download WY DEQ Notice of Violation #4419-09 (329k PDF)
> Download Settlement Agreement #4419-09, March 9, 2009 (616k PDF)

Wyoming DEQ denounces poor environmental compliance at Smith Ranch/Highland in situ leach mine, issues Notice of Violation to PRI for failure to conduct concurrent reclamation

> View here

Cameco to restart Highland uranium recovery plant

On Dec. 4, 2007, Cameco announced that it is planning to restart its idle Highland uranium "mill" (i.e. the plant recovering the uranium from the pregnant solution produced by in situ-leach mining). The plant will be required to meet the proposed production increase at Cameco's Crow Butte and Smith Ranch-Highland in situ-leach facilities.

 

Mayor spill at Cameco's Highland in situ leach uranium mine

Cameco's Highland in situ leach uranium mine reports largest spill ever recorded in the U.S.

On June 22, 2007, Cameco's subsidiary PRI reported to the NRC an injection solution release comprising 198,500 gallons [751 cubic meters]. This is the largest spill ever reported at an in situ leach mine in the U.S. since the establishment of NRC's ADAMS database in November 1999.
> Download Preliminary Release Report, June 22, 2007 (PDF) · Release Report, June 29, 2007 (PDF)

Wyoming DEQ issues Notice of Violation to PRI on major injection fluid spill at Highland ISL site

On Sep. 12, 2007, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality issued a Notice of Violation to Power Resources Inc. based on the 198,500 gallon [751 cubic meters] spill of injection fluid reported by PRI on June 22, 2007 to the Land Quality Division (LQD).
> Download WY DEQ Notice of Violation #4122-07 (PDF) · Settlement Agreement (858k PDF)

> View chronology of spills at Highland

 

Cameco writes down Highland ISL property

On Nov. 7, 2000, Cameco announced the writedown of the Highland ISL property. Cameco plans to gradually reduce annual production to 300,000 pounds U3O8 (115 t U) by 2003, with the option of increasing production when prices warrant.

Development of the Highland ISL uranium project to be suspended

"Development activities at the Highland ISL uranium project in Wyoming will be suspended from 1 October, Power Resources International has announced. PRI also plans to scale production back from 700,000 pounds U3O8 (269 tU) in 2001 to 500,000 pounds U3O8 (192 tU) in 2002 and 300,000 pounds U3O8 (115 tU) in 2003. Current market conditions have been cited as the reason for the cutbacks, but PRI has the ability to ramp up production quickly should the market require." (UI News Briefing 00.39, Sep 27, 2000)

 

License Renewal for Power Resources, Inc. Highland Uranium Project (Wyoming)

By letter dated July 13, 2000, Power Resources is requesting a license renewal for its Highland ISL project for 10 years. (details available through ADAMS , Docket No. 04008857)

 

License violations and reportable events at Power Resources, Inc. Highland Uranium Project, Wyoming, USA

post Sep. 30, 2018: withheld (after Wyoming became an NRC agreement state) > For reports on many more spills, download WY DEQ's spill databases !

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a Notice of Violation to Power Resources, Inc., of Denver, Colorado, for violations of NRC requirements at the Highland Uranium Project in Converse County, Wyoming.
Power Resources, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Cameco Corp.

> View Notice of Violation EA 97-218


North Butte / Brown Ranch (ISL), Campbell County

(satellite to the Smith Ranch facility)

> View deposit data

Cameco plans to discontinue U.S. uranium mining operations

> View here

On Apr. 2, 2018, Cameco notified NRC of the cessation of production at the North Butte mine: "As of February 13, 2018, the North Butte mine had shut off all production and injection flow to Mine Units 1 and 2. Both of these mine units continue to operate a limited number of wells to maintain a small 'bleed' flow for control of mining fluids. [...]
Within the next 21 months, Cameco will submit Alternate Decommissioning Schedules for Smith Ranch-Highland and North Butte. [...] All production equipment will remain in standby to provide the option to restart full operations in the future should market conditions warrant. The above mentioned Alternate Decommissioning Schedule will include a request to defer equipment decommissioning and also an integrated restoration schedule for all mine units."
> Download: Cameco letter to NRC, Apr. 2, 2018 (PDF)

NRC refrains from fining Cameco for health document falsification at North Butte in situ leach uranium mine

An employee of Cameco, which operates Wyoming's largest uranium mine, falsified a health survey required after two other workers were potentially exposed to radioactive material in 2013, regulators announced Monday (Oct. 3). In an agreement confirmed Friday (Sep. 30) between the company and federal regulators, Cameco will not be cited for a violation or pay a penalty but must take steps to ensure a similar incident doesn't again take place.
The false document was uncovered three years ago by the company during an internal investigation. Federal regulators requested that Cameco conduct the investigation when the issue of proper documentation came up during a routine inspection, said company spokesman Ken Vaughn.
The incident took place Sept. 12, 2013, at the company's North Butte satellite facility in Campbell County. The occurrence was isolated to a single survey of two individuals, but the disregard for safety was a serious issue, said Victor Dricks, spokesman for the U.S Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Texas division, which oversees Wyoming's uranium operations. (Casper Star-Tribune Oct. 3, 2016)
> Download: NRC release Oct. 3, 2016 (PDF)
> Download: Confirmatory Order and NRC Investigation Report 4-2014-034, EA-16-051 , Sep. 30, 2016 (6.5MB PDF)
> Federal Register Volume 81, Number 199 (Friday, October 14, 2016) p. 71119-71122 (download full text )
> Access Docket ID NRC-2016-0211

In addition, NRC issued a Notice of Violation to the individual who was responsible for the falsifications.
> Download: Notice of Violation - NRC Investigation Report 4-2014-034, IA-16-043 , Sep. 30, 2016 (23.2MB PDF)

Cameco requests 50% increase in flowrate at North Butte in situ leach uranium mine

On April 10, 2015, Cameco requested from NRC a license amendment for an increase of the production flowrate from 4,000 gallons per minute to 6,000 gallons per minute. The additional satellite flow capacity would facilitate the extraction of uranium from approved well fields at a faster rate. Individual well field production will not increase, but more well fields could be in production at the same time.
> Download License Amendment request, April 10, 2015 (10.5M PDF)

NRC issues temporary exemption from financial assurance requirements for Cameco's North Butte in situ leach mine

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing a temporary exemption from certain NRC financial assurance requirements to Cameco Resources (Cameco) in response to its annual financial assurance update for the North Butte satellite to the Smith Ranch Highland Uranium In-Situ Recovery (ISR) project. Issuance of this temporary exemption will not remove the requirement for Cameco to provide adequate financial assurance through an approved mechanism, but will allow the NRC staff to further evaluate whether the State of Wyoming's separate account provision for financial assurance instruments it holds is consistent with the NRC's requirement for a standby trust agreement.
> Federal Register Volume 79, Number 109 (Friday, June 6, 2014) p. 32773-32775 (download full text )
> Access Docket ID NRC-2014-0092

State invites comment on draft permit for deep disposal wells of Cameco's North Butte uranium in situ leach mine (Wyoming)

On Dec. 24, 2013, Wyoming DEQ isseud a notice is to inform the public that the State of Wyoming is proposing the re-issuance of permit #11-468 for Cameco Resources' North Butte Underground Disposal injection facility. This permit renewal proposes to continue previously authorized injection, propose three (3) new injection wells, request an EPA aquifer exemption for the injected formations, update areas of review and injection pressures, and bring this permit into conformance with other recently issued Class I ISR permits.
The public is invited to comment on this draft permit until January 22, 2014.
> Download PublicNotice Dec. 20, 2013 (PDF)
> Download DraftPermit (PDF)
> Download Supplemental Information (PDF)

On June 24, 2013, Cameco notified NRC of its intent to submit an amendment application for an expansion area (Brown Ranch Tract 1) of its North Butte operations late 2013 early 2014.

> See older issues

License violations and reportable events at North Butte in-situ leaching site

post Sep. 30, 2018: withheld (after Wyoming became an NRC agreement state)


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