Nevada Vanadium Co. hopes to have the Gibellini Mine in Eureka County producing the critical mineral vanadium by the end of 2023, the company’s vice president of environment and sustainability, Ron Espell, said in a virtual U.S. Bureau of Land Management meeting.
Production will follow roughly 18 months of construction, and plans call for 120 workers during construction and 113 employees when the mine is completed, with about 30 people on site at one time during the 24-hour operations, he said.
This will be the first vanadium mine in the United States, according to the BLM.
The open pit mine also will produce a small amount of uranium in the form of yellowcake as a secondary product, Espell said during the Sept. 2 scoping session that was one of two the Battle Mountain BLM District hosted to kick off an environmental impact statement process.
“There are very small amounts of naturally occurring uranium in the vanadium mine that will be leached along with the vanadium,” he said.
The uranium yellowcake will be packaged in lined steel drums “to ensure low risk,” and the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services will oversee permitting with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the BLM and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection for the safety of employees, Espell said.
The company expects to see nine to 10 truckloads of sulfuric acid coming from Carlin per day, and the solid vanadium pentoxide product will require one truck a day to a railhead in Carlin. Yellowcake will be shipped in one truck every two months to a licensed uranium facility. There also will be one or two trucks a week carrying diesel to the site, he said.
The vanadium project is low cost because production will come from a simple heap leach process using sulfuric acid, and there will be no dewatering or pit lake after mining ends because the bottom of the mine is 110 feet above the water table, Espell said.
The mine’s initial life for the first of five known vanadium targets is seven years, but the company would be much longer if all the targets go into production. Reclamation bonding will be for 30 years.
Water from ranch
The Gibellini project site is on 6,456 acres of public land in the southeast corner of Eureka County five miles south of the Fish Creek Ranch, and Nevada Vanadium will be acquiring water for the project from the ranch. There is no surface water on the project property.
In an agreement with Eureka County, the mine will lease 650 gallons per minute from the Fish Creek Ranch, which in turn will drop one irrigation pivot, Espell said.
He said the company has designed the project to “avoid environmental impacts where possible,” and this effort included the planned placement of water lines, power lines and a road to steer away from sage grouse habitat.
Vanadium is a “rather obscure metal” that is considered strategic that doubles the strength of steel, Espell said. Vanadium is one of the 35 critical minerals the U.S. Geological Survey has identified.
According to Nevada Vanadium, the mineral is used for aircraft, missiles and personnel transport, in the production of synthetic rubber, polyester, fiberglass, as a component of catalytic converters, and in batteries, including lithium vanadium batteries for electric vehicles and vanadium redox flow batteries.
Production is estimated at 5,000 tons of vanadium a year and 25 tons of uranium.
The next step after the scoping sessions and acceptance of written comment on the proposed mine is the draft environmental impact statement, and if all goes as planned, the agency should “be able to arrive at a decision in about 12 months,” said Jess Harvey, the public affairs specialist for the Battle Mountain BLM district office.
Project issues
Preliminary issues the BLM identified for the Gibellini proposal included closure of the heap leach after mining ends, special status species, including the golden eagle and sage grouse, wildlife habitat, visual resources, surface and groundwater resources, cultural resources eligible under the National Register of Historic Places and uranium management.
Jon Alsad, senior project manager for ICF, the company helping prepare the EIS, said closure of the heap leach facilities will be done in stages, as processing moves from one stage to the next. He estimated active closure of a pad would take four years.
Regarding special status species, he said there is one greater sage-grouse lek (breeding ground) 3.8 miles to the west of Gibellini site.
“There are no active leks that occur in the project area,” he said in the virtual meeting.
Species to be considered in the study include the sage grouse, bats, burrowing owls, pygmy rabbits and raptors. The golden eagle nest should be closely looked at in the study, one of those asking questions during the session said.
Espell said the company looked out 10 miles regarding the golden eagles but the baseline of two miles is the area of highest concern.
Roughly 40 people were on the Sept. 2 Zoom scoping meeting, but only a few asked questions. The second meeting was slated for 5 p.m. Sept. 3.
Nevada Vanadium acquired the vanadium project in 2017. Prior operator American Vanadium started the environmental impact statement process for Gibellini with BLM in 2013, but that study was not completed. A BLM document states the EIS was withdrawn in August 2014.
Land acquisition
Nevada Vanadium is a wholly owned by Vancouver-based Silver Elephant Mining Corp., which changed its name in March of this year from Prophecy Development Corp., and in a related development Nevada Vanadium reported on Aug. 24 that it entered into a binding asset purchase agreement for claims next door to Gibellini.
The agreement is with CellCube Energy Storage Systems Inc. to acquire the Bisoni vanadium project that includes 201 lode mining claims accessed by a gravel road extending south from U.S. Highway 50, and is about 25 miles south of the town of Eureka, according to the announcement.
The plan calls for parent company Silver Elephant issued 4 million shares and paying $200,000 cash to Cellbube at closing, along with a one-time $500,000 payment of shares should the price of vanadium pentoxide exceed $12 per pound for 30 consecutive business days.
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