As the great LL Cool J once said: "Don't call it a comeback, I've been here for years."
The quote seems particularly applicable to the mining business today. Mining projects globally are getting harder to permit and bring to production. But one historic mining powerhouse seems to be bucking that trend--ramping up its domestic productivity at a surprising speed.
I've talked lately about renaissances in mining legislation in states like Minnesota, Michigan and even Maine. And it appears that we can add uranium production in Wyoming to that list of up-and-coming hot spots.
That's because of reports last week from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Which show that uranium production from new mines in Wyoming helped lift overall U.S. output of yellowcake higher last year. To a level we haven't seen in 16 years.
Total American uranium production came in at 1.095 million pounds in the fourth quarter of 2013. Up 14% from the same period in 2012.
That was enough to lift annual domestic production to a total 4.81 million pounds. As the chart below shows, that level surpasses a previous high rate from 2007. Coming in as the best year for U.S. uranium output since 1997.
The rise in output comes mostly from the new Lost Creek in-situ leach project developed recently by Ur-Energy in Wyoming.
It's a big positive for the uranium industry to see output hitting such levels. Especially given the tally comes even as uranium prices languish at multi-year lows. The previous high-production year in 2007--by contrast--came on the tail end of a huge spike in uranium prices.
It thus appears that last year's high watermark is more a testament to the ease of doing mining business in America. With a favourable permitting and operating environment in places like Wyoming making projects like Lost Creek viable, even in the currently-depressed uranium market.
That's another great sign for mining in America. Keep watching this comeback kid.
Here's to making it work,
By. Dave Forest