South Africa is home to the most uranium mines on the continent. Although Africa only has two nuclear power stations of its own, the continent produces 18% of the world’s uranium supply.
At Scribante Group, we provide expertise and equipment for companies looking to set up uranium mining ventures in South Africa. Read on to find out more.
Uranium is an incredibly valuable product. It can be mined using any typical method, such as open-pit or underground mining. Like other mined materials, the raw product must then be processed to extract the uranium. Processing involves grinding and chemical leaching.
The positives and negatives of each mining technique are the same as with other products, such as coal, gold, and mineral ores. Of course, there are much stricter safety standards when dealing with uranium, which we’ll discuss later.
In South Africa, uranium is generally a by-product of other mining ventures. This is usually copper or gold mining. However, several companies exist to either explicitly process uranium-rich slurry from gold mining or to mine uranium itself. An increase in the global demand for uranium led to more companies in South Africa dedicating their time to processing the product.
Uranium in South Africa
The majority of uranium mined in South Africa comes from the Witwatersrand Basin, the world’s largest natural deposit of gold. Several multinational companies have established uranium-processing facilities at or near gold mines in the area. For example, First Uranium Corp of Canada built a plant at Ezulwini gold mine in the West Rand. It produced its first uranium in 2009.
First Uranium also built a plant at the Buffelsfontein gold mine in South Africa to process uranium left in old gold tailings. Within these tailings, there is likely 21,000 tU in reserves.
Safety Considerations of Uranium Mining in South Africa
While safety and quality are our primary concerns at Scribante Group, we are acutely aware of the higher requirements for uranium mining. Uranium itself isn’t that radioactive; much of the radiation comes from the decay process. Even so, it’s important to maintain appropriate safety standards when dealing with a hazardous product.
The primary control methods used in uranium mining are:
One of the major health factors is the inhalation of dust, which contains gamma-emitting materials. In open-pit mining and milling plants, dust is the main source of radiation exposure for workers.
To control dust, ventilation is vital. Sufficient ventilation also helps to control radon-daughter exposure, which is the primary cause of lung cancer for people working around uranium.
Luckily, open-pit mines already have excellent natural ventilation, meaning this is much less of a concern. In underground mines, forced ventilation is a must.
Uranium mining is a lucrative business for the economy of South Africa. Considering the mines already exist, it makes perfect sense to establish uranium-processing facilities on-site.
At Scribante Group, we work with mining companies to supply services and expertise. We have assisted with numerous uranium mining projects. So, please contact us if you’d like more information about how we can help you.