Uranium mining firm to use safe, eco-friendly technology

06Jun 2020
By Guardian Reporter
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Uranium mining firm to use safe, eco-friendly technology

​​​​​​​URANIUM mining firm—Mantra Tanzania is set to use the environmental friendly—in-situ recovery (ISR) mining method in the Mkuju River project, as it increases economic potential of the project and make it even safer for the environment.

Mantra Tanzania is a subsidiary of the Uranium One Group, operating at the Mkuju River Project in Southern Tanzania.

“ISR is relatively known as the most eco-friendly mining method and it would be the best method of choice for our work in Tanzania because keeping environment safe is one of our top priorities,” Managing Director of Mantra Tanzania, Frederick Kibodya said in a statement.

He said that the testing for ISR through leaching for some part of the ore body, which is amenable to this method, is one of the major tasks that Mantra Tanzania undertook in order to increase the efficiency of the mine.

According to him, ISR has gained traction in the exploitation of low-grade ore deposits and for its low production cost.

“Simply put the ISR technology can bring additional revenue for the country’s uranium mining sector in the future. In a broad sense, Tanzania will not only receive an advanced technology but also a positive effect on the economy of the country,” the official said in a statement.

He said: “The Mkuju River Nyota deposit’s extraction philosophy was primarily based on open cast mining. However, positive hydrological studies and Push Pull testing have led to an increasing appreciation that the ISR potential of the deposit might be greater than previously thought.”

On challenges, Kibodya further said: “Uranium mining is a new concept to the Tanzanian mining authorities, as no ISR mining activities have been proposed in the country in the past.”

In addition, he said the project is situated within the borders of the world famous Nyerere National Park, making environmental protection a priority.

“As such, it has been and will remain important for companies to work closely with the Tanzanian regulators. As the ISR mining proves to be more viable, it holds the potential to unlock the region as an ISR production center. The Selous Basin is highly prospective for both stratiform and roll-front type uranium deposits and Mantra is well-positioned to take advantage of this opportunity.”

He however said: “Today producing uranium in a safe and environmentally responsible manner is important for both: the world and Tanzania. Uranium mining remains controversial mainly to a legacy of environmental and health issues experienced in the very early phase of the industry.”

According to him, nowadays uranium mining is conducted under significantly different circumstances - it is the most regulated and one of the safest forms of mining in the world. Advanced mining technologies achieve outstanding results in the field of safety and environmental protection in the industry.

ISR was developed independently in both the Soviet Union and the United States in the mid-1960s and it has remained safe, proven method that accounts for about 50% of world uranium extraction. “The technology has a very important role to play in the national uranium mining industry.”

ISR mining entails low capital and operating costs. Mining by ISR technology is friendly in comparison to conventional open-pit and underground mining due to less landscape disturbances, no waste rock dumps, no tailoring storage, and aquifer self-restoration after ISR

ISR has lower capital and operational costs due to economically viable uranium recovery from low-grade ores, low power consumption, reduced labor costs per unit produced and lower restoration cost.

The expert said: “One of the most important aspects of ISR mining is that it has a much lower environmental impact than underground mining, involving very little surface disturbance and no tailings or waste rock generation.

“After ISR mining operations are completed, the quality of the remaining groundwater is restored to a baseline standard determined as part of an environmental impact assessment and approval before the start of the operation. Upon decommissioning, wells are sealed or capped, process facilities removed, the evaporation pond is revegetated, and the land can then revert to its previous uses.”

“For health and safety reasons employees undergo regular monitoring for alpha radiation contamination and wear personal dosimeters to measure exposure to gamma radiation. Routine monitoring of air, dust and surface contamination are also undertaken.”

Tanzania is expected to become one of the-biggest uranium producer on the global market. The uranium industry in Tanzania is expected to earn $250-million a year in revenue and create about 2000 job opportunities.