A subsidiary of Talvivaara Mining has applied to the Finnish government for a permit to extract uranium as a by-product at its Talvivaara nickel and zinc mine in Sotkamo, eastern Finland.
|Talvivaara: Uranium could soon be extracted as a by-product (Image: Talvivaara)
In February, Talvivaara Mining said that it was investigating modifying the metals extraction process at the Talvivaara mine in order to recover uranium. The company said that in its bioheapleaching process, small concentrations of uranium leach into the process solution (some 25 milligrams per litre) along with its main products: nickel, copper, zinc and cobalt. Extremely small concentrations of uranium are deposited in an engineered gypsum pond intended for process precipitations, the company said. Talvivaara is investigating the potential to modify its production process so that the uranium contained in the solution can be utilized as uranium oxide (yellowcake).
Now, Talvivaara Satkamo - a subsidiary of Talvivaara Mining - has applied to the Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy for a licence under the country's Nuclear Energy Act to extract the uranium as a by-product at the Sotkamo mine. The company said that preparations for the environmental impact assessment relating to the uranium extraction process have also begun at the mine site.
Talvivaara CEO Pekka Perä commented: "The permitting process is proceeding according to plan. It has been encouraging to see the efficient cooperation between our own organization and the relevant authorities in clarifying the questions related to the permitting process for this remarkable project."
Some €30 million ($41.2 million) would need to be spent on modifying its extraction process, Talvivaara said, with annual production costs of around €2 million ($2.7 million). Annual uranium output would be about 350 tonnes, which is significant compared to the country's annual needs of about 1150 tonnes.
The yellowcake produced would be packaged and transported for further processing. The product purchaser, Talvivaara said, will handle the further processing into nuclear fuel abroad, as Finland does not currently have any uranium conversion or enrichment facilities. Talvivaara is currently in discussions with leading companies in the industry regarding a potential cooperation for this project, after which its final financing and operating model will be determined.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News