Russia plans to build the world's only uranium plant using waste-free technology, JSC VNIPIpromtechnologii (Engineering Centre of ARMZ Uranium Holding, the Mining Division of Rosatom) announced.
VNIPIpromtechnologii has developed a technology for processing carbonate ores from the Argunskoye and Zherlovoye uranium deposits of the Streltsovskoye ore field.
The development of the Argunskoye and Zherlovoye deposits (at mine No. 6, now under construction) is currently the main project of the largest uranium mining enterprise in Russia - the Priargunsky Industrial Mining And Chemical Union (PIMCU, also part of ARMZ). Operational reserves account for about 35% of the total reserves of PIMCU, and the average grade of strategic metal is higher than at the operating mines, which ensures a competitive production cost.
Construction of Mine No. 6 began in March 2018. At the same time, work was carried out to select the optimal technology for processing carbonate ore deposits. For the extraction of samples, core drilling was performed by JSC Rusburmash (ARMZ’s specialised company for geological exploration and drilling). A total of 2 tons of ore core samples were taken.
Ore processing is carried out in the experimental hydrometallurgical workshop of the Central Research Laboratory (TsNIL) of PIMCU. “The technology that is being developed now is based on autoclave leaching, then the uranium slurry is filtered, and pure uranium solutions are sent for sorption. The technology will help to significantly reduce the cost of the final product,” said the head of the Central Research Laboratory Maxim Yakovlev. Laboratory studies and pilot-industrial tests of a new technology of sorption from leaching solutions of carbonate ores have been undertaken.
“We were able to obtain finished products according to the international standard ASTM C967-13. Now we are starting to design a new hydrometallurgical plant. If our ideas are implemented, the industry will receive a unique plant that uses the best practices and scientific achievements of the global uranium industry. It will be the only uranium plant in the world operating using waste-free technology,” said Valery Golovko, chief technologist of VNIPIpromtechnologii.
At present, several types of ion-exchange resins are being tested in the experimental hydrometallurgical workshop of the Central Scientific Research Laboratory, which extract uranium and molybdenum, a by-product component contained in the ores of the Argunskoye and Zherlovoy deposits. The modes of precipitation of ammonium polyuranates and ammonium polymolybdates have been worked out. Specialists from VNIPIpromtechnologii and the Central Scientific Research Laboratory of PIMCU are developing technological regulations for the processing of ores from the Argunskoye and Zherlovoy deposits.