Inside view at Cameco's Smith Ranch Uranium Facility


Cameco Corp. (NYSE: CCJ) has been burning 800 pounds in the uranium sector. Cameco is uranium that Wal-Mart is in retail, and what is Saudi Aramco's oil. At a percentage level, Cameco dominates its sector more than any of these two. Cameco is likely to have more power cut-off power that now powers your PC than any other company in the world.

Can you imagine what would have happened if Cameco's workforce would strike a hypothetical strike for six months? The consequences would probably be sent by fuel managers who are buying nuclear reactors in a desperate panic. Consumers who are not aware of the importance of uranium, and believe that their electricity is given to them by God, just as many of us took gasoline prices of 20 cents for almost before 1973, can suffer a shock for utility bills, if anything disturbs stable supplying uranium to US utility companies. Imagine what would happen if we had darkening and unconsciousness in the same way as we had gas lines during the oil crisis of the 1970s? Uranium is the cheapest part of a nuclear fuel cycle. Without uranium, however, the nuclear facility is functional as well as a car on blocks in the front yard of the Alabama cracker.

This week, the price of uranium rose to $ 40 per pound, for the first time since Ronald Reagan was president. This should help increase the uranium business in Weiming's jumps and borders. In Part 5, we look at the largest American uranium producer, Cameco's Power Resources.

Understanding & # 39; In Situ Leach & # 39; Uranium extraction

"It took $ 284 million from a Canadian manufacturer for construction, and it worked with 546 people," said Patrick Drummond, head of the plant's Cameco Power Resources subsidiary. Smith Ranch facility. He pointed to the Kerr McGee Smith Ranch subterranean mine on the wall across the table, which was later turned into an ISL operation, first led by Rio Algom. "This operation cost $ 44 million to build and 80 people to start." Drummond talked about a Uranium Injection Plant In Situ, known as Smith Ranch. "It should give you the ISL scale compared to the underground mine," he explained.

Aging, but lively, Drummond knows his uranium. Since 1980 he has been working in underground mines, open pit mines and uranium mills. From 1996 to the present, he worked in Wyoming for energy resources at the ISL uranium plant of ISL. "I started in coal mines in Scotland," Drummond boasted, who claims he can spot the coal miners in the bar, just watching the veins in their hands. "I worked in Elliot Lake and massive underground mines up there." Holding his hands and looking down, she seemed apologetic: "It's also a huge environmental cleaning problem, a big endeavor. Quirk Lake was one of the great mines up there.

The new face of uranium mining in Wyoming is the ISL method for extracting uranium, also known as the mining solution. The differences between mining underground uranium and ISL operations are small and large. Both methods of uranium mining use the surface. So, both methods are underground mining. However, there are similarities here. "With the underground, bring the ore, rub it, crush and pull the uranium out of the ore," Drummond explained, the basics of underground mining uranium. "This ore becomes waste, which is known as tailings, and then you have to service these big dams and then decompose."

ISL is a new type of mining. "With ISL, we do not do it," Drummond continued in his one-day lecture to our editorial team during the VIP tour of the Smith Ranch facility. "For the underground with ISL, drill holes in the uranium and extract uranium from the underground ore," he said. "Then you process it in a yellow cake."

Still, not all wine and roses are for Drummond. He treads for his underground mines, "From the mining perspective, it's not mining so it's not that exciting." Drummond laughs: "ISL is like a water purification plant. We take out water and remove some ions." He sounds so simply, "We remove water from the underground and remove the ions, like uranium ions, return the water back to the ground." All the water is coming back to Earth? No, Drummond explained: "We took out water and returned 99 percent. One is called bleeding. It's a control function. "

Drummond lists more comparable, "In order to launch an underground mine, one should make a mine for one year before you begin mining. The advantage is expensive for the underworld – plus $ 200 million – due to development costs in advance." From his perspective, a miner in Drummond led to mining. "ISL is lighter. It's much cheaper: cheaper capital costs and less operational costs. "It's less intense." When asked about deadly radon emissions, often referred to as the danger of underground exploitation, Drummond returned: "This is zero emissions."

Analyzing these two methods, he said: "You can start to produce faster ISL operations," he added, "This will give you a faster return on investment. "What's the bad side?" "Some of Camec's mines in Saskatchewan work around 5, 10, 15 and 27% uranium." In this area, or in the ISL, it operates less than one or two percent. It's very low. "In addition, the body of uranium ore must be found underground," he added, "You can only work ISL in a rock that is porous and has water in it. "

In simple terms, a billion years ago, uranium found a way into the underground aquifers of the sandstone of Wyoming. "We add oxygen and return the uranium to the solution," Drummond observed. "We're complimenting it with CO2 to keep it in the solution, and then bring it to the surface. It is highlighted by the ion exchange base." According to Drummond, uranium extraction works on the same principle as water softener. "Salts are added to the resin to get the uranium out of the resin." Then we take this uranium and turn it into a final product called a yellow cake. "

And why is it called a yellow cake? "Some of them are yellow, some green or dark green." Some of them are black, "Drummond patiently explains." Color is a function of how it is dried, not how it is processed. There is a very clear correlation between the drying temperature of the yellow cake and the color. "Everything depends on what chemicals you use for processing uranium, we produce uranium peroxide at Smith Ranch, it's very clean and yellow. You can make different types of yellow cakes, you can make uranium diuranate, a complex made with ammonia.

How is ISL uranium dried up in Wyoming? "We dry the uranium with vacuum dryers," Drummond said. "The advantage of vacuum dryers is above all a vacuum, so everything is sucked into the canister so that nothing can escape into the environment."

Environmental research

At this point, it was considered appropriate to examine all the confusing concerns that many of us could associate with when we think about nuclear energy and uranium. How real is this safe? "When we started exploiting uranium, we inherited people from the gold mines," explained Drummond. "They were underground and smoked, inhaled dust. In the early days, we did not have good ventilation. In underground exploitation, you have to keep the air moving." Underground exploitation of hard rock produces dust. "The fragrances of silicones you breathe hold for the follicles on your lungs," he noticed. But this does not happen during the ISL allocation process. No emissions, farm fields with wells with underground pipes and pipes, as well as very detailed protective mechanisms that explain that the walls of the energy resource lobby are covered with certificates and safety awards.

"Every day, when we leave the facility, they are scanned for alpha radiation," continued Drummond. "Depending on your position, you receive urine analysis once a week or once a month. We also check the levels of radiation." How did Drummond get the latest radiation check? "I was far below," he laughed. "There are people on the beach in Malibu who have higher radiation than I do."

What precautionary measures are taken by energy resources for environmental protection during the ISL extraction process? "Since 1996, we have not had any adventures," Drummond said in a voice. "We are making great efforts to look at the topography, so if we have a trip, we will make sure that we do not enter what we call" the waters of the states. "And move it to the state waters, which we are very aware of."

Once the holes have been drilled in the field of the well, the company makes a "basic sample". Drummond said: "It's a sample of water components. When we mobilize uranium, we mobilize other things." He added, "If we know what's in the water before we start, then we'll know how to get it back." The renewal of the mother's underwater work can last from 18 to 36 months.

The company is pedantic in restoring the landscape. Any restoration work on the surface is called "reclamation". This can involve agriculture. "When we launch a good field, we must, under license, remove the surface layer of the earth and store it somewhere," explained Drummond. "When we return to recover the property, we take out all the pipes, we take the houses and cut off our wells, it comes close and asks what it was, the state can say it was uranium well. From the moment we stopped digging, we all returned in normal. "

It takes two to four months, or up to seven years, to empty the field of the well, depending on the rolling faces. Although it may take up to 24 months to set up drilling fields, reclamation and restoration take longer. "We return the surface layer of the earth, depending on the time, as soon as it is possible," said Drummond. "We repeat the seed, during spring or autumn, which is the best time for seed." The seeds we use are dictated by regulators, so we use a certain amount of natural vegetation. "Because it's very dry at Smith Ranch, near the desert border, and because it's also very windy, spraying over the surface layer will not last very long." First, we plant some fast growing teeth to establish "If we just planted grass, everything would fly away." As we sow our teeth, we have oily antelope and fat deer. "From our observations, the sheep were well fed and mischievous.

How can Wyoming ISL mining be compared to other places, such as Texas or Kazakhstan? "In Vietnam, water is intact, very clean, even compared to Texas, where ISLs work," Drummond replied. "And there's the water pretty clean." Is Uranium the same? "When we bring our uranium to the surface, it appears as uranyl dicarbonate," he replied. "In Texas, it appears as uranyl tricarbonate." What's the difference? It's in the process of uranium processing. "We get about 8.5 kilograms of uranium per cubic resin," he explained. "In Texas, they get about 3 to 4 kilograms of uranium per cubic resin."

Drummond described the ion exchange operation, Smith Ranch, "We have two columns in an ion exchange, each with about 500 cubic feet of resin." The resin costs about $ 200 / cubic feet and, in addition to mechanical damage, can last up to thirty years, according to Drummond. Polymer beads – look like small plastic ball bearings – catch uranium at the processing stage. "In Kazakhstan you get about two to three pounds of uranium per cubic resin," he continued. "They use hydrochloric acid because of the conditions of water." Of course, you changed the chemistry of water and cleaned all the acid. "Drummond described the water in Kazakhstan as very salty and yellowish." TDS (total solubilized substances) is very high, "he added. Acid cleans their water there."

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