Brazil resumes uranium mining at Caetité

02 December 2020

Industrias Nucleares do Brasil (INB) has started mining uranium from the new open-pit Engenho mine at Caetité, in Brazil's Bahia state. It is hoped that resumption of uranium production at the site will make the country self-sufficient in fuel for its nuclear power reactors. A ceremony was held yesterday at the mine site, during which a detonation was carried out, symbolising the beginning of open pit mining in a new area, the Engenho mine.

Participants in the ceremony pressed a button to sound a siren as the first detonation was made for the Engenho mine (Image: INB)

At Caetité, INB performs the first two stages of the nuclear fuel cycle: uranium mining and milling. The unit covers an area of 1700 hectares, located in a mineral province with reserves reaching 99,100 tonnes of uranium and where over 17 ore deposits have been identified. About 3750 tonnes of uranium concentrate were produced at Caetité between 2000 and 2015, from the first mined area, the Cachoeira open-pit mine. However, since the exhaustion of mineable reserves in the Cachoeira mine, mining activities have been suspended.

"Brazil has the technological mastery of all stages of nuclear fuel production, the nuclear fuel cycle," said INB President Carlos Freire Moreira. "However, that means little if we are unable to extract and add value to uranium, saving foreign exchange on imports and generating employment and income for the country. And this is where, in Caetité, everything starts."

He added: "Today, INB is resuming production of uranium in Caetité, generating with this jobs in the order of 600 direct and about 1800 indirect. With this, there will be an injection of financial resources in the local economy of approximately 76 million reals (USD14.6 million) per year and almost 30 million per year in the collection of state and municipal taxes."

Minister of Mines and Energy, Bento Albuquerque, who attended the ceremony, said: "This resumption is the first phase to consolidate our proposal to make Brazil self-sufficient and a yellowcake exporter."

The Engenho mine is expected to produce 260 tonnes of uranium concentrate annually once it reaches full capacity in 2022. Output from the mine will be processed at the nearby Caetité mill.

Brazil has two nuclear reactors - Angra 1 and 2 - which generate about 3% of its electricity.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News