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Uranium in-situ leach mining facts Print

by Paul Poppe
Guest Commentary
Greeley Tribune
November 8, 2007

In response to an article The Tribune by Richard Blubaugh of Powertech Uranium Mining Corp. dated Oct. 18: Are opponents of in-situ leach mining simply just "full of fear and innuendo"? Do they "totally disregard Powertech's responses and ignore science"? Well, Blubaugh is right, kind of, that is to say; "Don't fall victim, get educated about uranium and recovery methods, from unbiased third parties, such as regulators or scientists."

Fact: The uranium in-situ leach solution mining process requires an oxidizing agent and a complexing or chelating agent to make the uranium solute (in a dissolved state). M.J. Humenick, scientist.

Fact: Either an acid or alkaline complexing-agent is required to lift the uranium ore from it's formation. J.W. Warner, scientist.

Fact: Sodium bicarbonate in the in-situ leach solution being used, places the lixivant (solution) into the alkaline category of complexing agents. J.W. Warner, scientist

Fact: Sodium bicarbonate can cause swelling of certain clays, and thus reduce permeability and reduce the efficiency of the mining process. J.W.Warner, scientist

Fact: A significant environmental impact from in-situ leach mining is potential groundwater contamination. The main sources of contamination are the contaminants introduced with the lixivant and materials in the ore body that become solubilized (being dissolved or liquified) during mining (such as radium 226, molybdenum, ammonia, nitrate, selenium, vanadium, etc.) RJ. Charbeneau, scientist, K.S. Wade, CSU.

Fact: Groundwater contamination can occur during mining and also after mining has stopped if restoration is incomplete. RJ. Charbeneau, scientist.

Fact: In-situ leaching is usually discontinued with around 10 to 15 milligrams per liter of uranium still present in the lixivant because of operating costs. J.R Kidwell, M.J. Humenick, scientists

Fact: In-situ leach mining has several advantages over conventional mining techniques. However, the potential for groundwater contamination does exist. RJ. Charbeneau, scientist.

Fact: Vertical excursions (deviations or digressions ofleaching solutions) can occur because of cracks in well casings, abandoned exploration holes, or leaky aquifers. J. W. Warner, scientist.

Fact: A lot of unmarked forgotten, improperly sealed exploration holes have shown up in various places in which uranium mineralization is known to exist throughout Weld County. P.J.P., interested third party

Fact: Unfortunately, the removal of certain contaminants absorbed onto the aquifer clays during mining can be a very slow process, consequently, a large quantity of contaminated water is generated (using sweeping for restoration). RJ. Charbeneau, scientist

Fact: Radionuclides mobilized by the leach solutions may be absorbed by clays. These materials may release radioactive products until equilibrium is established. K.S. Wade, CSU

Fact: Clean-water recycling (for restoration) is expected to introduce oxygen into the groundwater system and oxygenated groundwater would continue to oxidize and mobilize metals prolonging restoration. RJ. Charbeneau, scientist

Fact: A major disadvantage to the method (in-situ uranium leach mining) is the potential for the contamination of ground water. Wyoming Water Research Center regulators.

Paul Poppe is a Greeley resident.

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