There are rich deposits of various minerals in the earth, but it may be too costly to mine these deposits due to the large number of resources needed to reach and extract them. However, In-Situ Recovery (ISR) allows for selective mining, using less surface area to minimize the disturbance of any given environment. ISR is an approach to mineral extraction that combines drilling, rock fracturing, and chemical leaching at the drill site. Solutions with dissolving properties are pumped into the ore body, and the dissolved metals travel up towards the surface. The metal concentration solution is then pumped out for processing. This article will run you through the differences between ISR leaching methods and conventional mining methods.
How Was the ISR Method Developed?
With the increased demand for uranium in the 1970s, the mining industry searched for an affordable way to access these large deposits. At the time, conventional mining methods were used. As recently as the late 1980s, these methods were still being used to recover uranium. However, ISR methods gained popularity as a more environmentally friendly alternative. As demand for uranium increased, this method made it possible to recover uranium without disturbing the surface or producing dust or waste tailings.
What Are Conventional Recovery Methods?
Open-pit mines are one of the most harmful and destructive forms of uranium extraction. In the open-pit method, first, the landscape is gouged out to expose an extensive ore deposit. Next, the ore is extracted with heavy machinery, which disturbs the surface significantly. Tunnels are then dug to reach and remove the ore. The ore is then ground into fine particles for further processing. The pulverization process produces dust, which contains naturally occurring radioactive materials. Strong acids and chemicals are then used to extract the uranium from the pulverized ore. The waste material produced from this process also contains uranium, heavy metals, and naturally occurring radioactive materials making it a high-waste process.
How Does ISR Recovery Work?
Now that you have a good understanding of ISR, it’s time to talk about how it works. While ISR may seem complicated, it’s actually pretty easy to understand. Here’s a brief breakdown of how ISR recovery works:
- A solution is injected underground where the uranium ore is located. This solution is made up of oxygen, hydrogen peroxide, and other oxidizing agents.
- The uranium dissolves once it comes to contact with the solution.
- The solution with the dissolved uranium is pumped and makes its way back to the surface.
- The solution passes through an ion-exchange column that separates the uranium from the solution and is pumped out.
- A stripping solution is poured into the ion-exchange column to redissolve the uranium.
- The uranium solution is isolated and transferred as it waits to be processed.
We hope this article proves to be useful when it comes to furthering your understanding of the ISR method. In situ leach mining is an innovative method of uranium mining that reuses water to dissolve the ore and pumps the solution to the surface for processing. This method is more environmentally friendly than conventional mining methods because it uses less surface disturbance and produces less harmful waste.
As you create your strategies, consider the socially responsible mineral extraction solutions created by Group 11 Technologies. Learn more about this environmentally friendly technology today!