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enCore Energy has announced the successful startup of production at the Alta Mesa uranium central processing plant (CPP) and wellfield, in south Texas.

With the restart of the previously producing Alta Mesa project, enCore was the only uranium producer in the US with multiple operational production facilities, it said in a statement.

The company, which owns the project in a 70:30 joint venture (JV) with Australia’s Boss Energy, expects the first shipment of yellowcake from Alta Mesa within the next 60 to 90 days.

“The enCore team has advanced the Alta Mesa project from acquisition in February 2023 to completion of upgrades, wellfield installation, and production in just fifteen months. This effort has brought our second producing asset online, fulfilling our commitment to commence production in the second quarter of 2024,” said CEO Paul Goranson.

The initial ramp-up at Alta Mesa would be a phased process, starting with the wellfield located in roduction Authorisation Area 7 (PAA-7). enCore planned to progressively increase production as additional injection and recovery wells were connected to the production lines. Work had already begun on the second new wellfield at Production Authorization Area 8 (PAA-8), with a target to achieve full operational capacity by 2026.

“The early production at Alta Mesa provides enCore with a second revenue source as we continue to build out the project,” Goranson added.

The Alta Mesa CPP has a total operating capacity of 1.5-million pounds of uranium oxide year, with an additional drying capacity of 0.5-million pounds. Historically, the CPP produced nearly five -illion pounds of uranium between 2005 and 2013, before production was halted due to low prices.

The project uses in-situ recovery technology, a non-invasive process that extracts uranium using natural groundwater and oxygen. Currently, oxygenated water is being circulated through the wellfield’s injection and extraction wells, directly feeding the CPP.

Expansion of the wellfield is ongoing, with production expected to increase steadily through 2024 and beyond.

Boss acquired its 30% interest in the Alta Mesa project in February from enCore for $60-million cash.

“The start of production at the Alta Mesa project is another key milestone in the implementation of our strategy to be a global uranium supplier with a diversified production base in tier-one locations,” said Boss MD Duncan Craib on Friday.

The key milestone comes just eight weeks after the start of production at Boss’ 100%-owned Honeymoon project, in Australia, where commissioning is proceeding to plan and production is forecast to ramp up to 2.45-million pounds a year.

With operations ramping up at both Honeymoon and Alta Mesa, Boss is on track to hit its combined nameplate production target of three-million pounds a year.

“Our timing could hardly be better given the increasingly tight supply and demand fundamentals in the uranium market.

“This highly favourable outlook was underpinned by US President Joe Biden’s recent signing of legislation to ban the importation of uranium products from Russia.

“This was a game-changing event for the uranium market and in particular for uranium projects in North America and Australia,” said Craib.