Uranium mining companies with leases under the Uranium Leasing Program (ULP) are required to pay annual lease royalty payments to the federal government. The first payment under recently renewed leases arrived in January 2021. Managed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Legacy Management (LM), ULP has lease agreements with four lessees: 

  • Energy Fuels Resources, Inc. (Lakewood, Colorado)
  • Gold Eagle Mining, Inc. (Montrose, Colorado)
  • Golden Eagle Uranium, LLC (Parker, Colorado)
  • Highbury Resources, Inc. (Mesa, Arizona)

In accordance with the terms of the leases, royalty payments are submitted to DOE’s office in Grand Junction, Colorado, for ULP staff to record and credit payments to the respective lessees and lease tracts. The payments are then forwarded to DOE’s Office of Finance and Accounting for processing. The royalty payments go to the U.S. Treasury’s General Account.

New Ellison Mine near Naturita, Colorado.
New Ellison Mine near Naturita, Colorado.

Due to an injunction, royalties have not been collected for a decade and the leases had expired. With the recent lifting of the injunction, ULP resumed activities and renegotiated the leases in 2020.

“No lease payments were collected since June 2011 due to an October 18, 2011, U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado injunction that froze lease activities until an evaluation of the DOE Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) was completed,” said Deborah Barr, program manager for ULP. “The court ordered DOE to provide additional information related to the PEIS. DOE complied with the order, and the injunction was lifted on March 18, 2019, allowing the program to move forward with negotiating these leases and collecting payments.”

DOE’s lease agreements require two types of royalty payments from the lessees. The first is an annual royalty, which allows the lessee to hold the uranium mining lease. The second is a production royalty, which only applies to uranium or vanadium ore mined from each lease tract. Currently, there are no active mining operations, therefore there are no production royalty payments due from the lessees.

The lessees could mine for both uranium and vanadium. The primary use for uranium today is for fuel in nuclear power plants. Historically, vanadium has been used to harden steel. In today’s technology, vanadium is showing a strong potential for use in high energy capacity batteries for electric cars.