A Guide to Mining Uranium Ore and Extracting It

Uranium has become quite an important commodity in the world today. There are a number of countries that need uranium in order to create nuclear fuel to use in nuclear power plants to be able to generate power and electricity for the country. Despite there being other approaches to creating energy, uranium is still in demand. The only way to acquire uranium is through uranium mining. Uranium mines don’t yet produce usable uranium. Instead, what miners try to get is uranium ore which is basically a little uranium that has mixed in with other minerals in the rock.

uranium mining

uranium mine

Countries like the US, Australia, and Canada have had a certain demand for uranium. In Canada, there are quite a number of uranium deposits where uranium ore can be mined from. This is why Canada is one of the three main producers of uranium annually. Along with Australia and Kazakhstan, Canada makes up around seventy percent of the annual production of uranium.

Now as mentioned, in order for uranium mining to initiated, it has to be done on an area which is a uranium deposit. With the demand for uranium, more uranium deposits need to be found. In order to increase efficiency, several techniques have been made in order to properly survey the ground. The most common techniques used by mining companies to assess potential mining areas for uranium are aero radiometry, aerial photography, ground water hydrochemistry, and surveying using gamma rays to indentify the proper drilling site for uranium mining.

Most of the uranium in the world is mined in the three leading uranium countries, Canada, Australia, and Kazakhstan. Of these three countries, Australia has the most significant portion of uranium in the entire globe. It is on the upper crust where a lot of the uranium can be found. The uranium here naturally occurs and is chemically denoted as U4+ and U6+ and both have 2 ppm in average abundance. Of all types of uranium resources, Uraninite or UO2 is the most naturally occurring. As the Uraninite reacts with the oxygen in the atmosphere, it becomes UcO8 known as the mineral pitchblende.

Now the most common ways of mining uranium from the Earth are through open pit uranium mining and underground uranium mining. These two types of uranium mines are the most common in the US especially ever since there was the development of nuclear energy. Open pit uranium mines are basically an open pit which was created by blasting and removing the soil and rocks on the surface to get to the uranium underground with a depth of less than 400 feet. In cases where the uranium goes deeper than 400 feet, an underground uranium mine is used where miners dig shafts and tunnels into the Earth and navigate the underground to get to the uranium ore.

Once the ore has been harvested from uranium mining, it will need to undergo extraction to separate the uranium and the ore. This is done using a base or an acid which can break down the minerals and separate them.

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