Tuesday, 22 January 2008

EPA gives green light to uranium mine

Uranium One has received full approval for its mining operations at the Honeymoon mine, north of Olary in far north South Australia, near the western New South Wales city of Broken Hill.

Full report from the ABC.

The Honeymoon Uranium Project is an advanced in situ recovery (ISR) project. The Board of Directors of Uranium One approved the development of the Honeymoon Project in August of 2006. Production is expected to begin in 2008 with a ramp-up to steady state production of 880,000 pounds U3O8 per year. Planned technical processes for uranium extraction have been confirmed through the operation of a demonstration plant and a field leach trial over an 18 month period.

Extraction Method

The basic wellfield design will be based on “7-spot” patterns, which consist of six injection wells arranged in a 20 – 60 metre hexagon, with a centrally located production well. Local variations in pattern size may occur on wellfield margins and where low-permeability ore zones require closer-spaced patterns.The wellfield requires conditioning prior to the commencement of leaching operations to achieve optimum uranium production. Conditioning involves lowering the pH of the ground water in the ore zone to a range of 2.0 to 2.5 (equivalent to the pH of lemon juice). Leach solution will then be introduced into the ore zone via injection wells causing the uranium minerals to be extracted (creating pregnant leach solution).

Approximately 30 production wells will be required to be in operation at any one time in order to meet the process plant design feed requirements. The selected production rate is 400 tonnes per annum U3O8 equivalent which will result in a mine life of between 6 and 7 years.

Processing Method

Pregnant leach solution will be pumped back to surface for processing via the production wells. The process plant will utilize solvent extraction (SX) technology to recover uranium from the pregnant leach solution. The uranium product will consist predominantly of uranium peroxide and will be precipitated from aqueous strip solution from solvent extraction. The uranium product will be de-watered and dried prior to packaging for transport.

More information

In-situ leaching (quicktime video)

In Situ Leach (ISL) Mining of Uranium (UIC Briefing Paper)

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