Terrafame to conduct experimental uranium extraction

18 December 2017

Finnish multi-metal company Terrafame has been granted permission by the country's nuclear regulator to recover a small quantity of uranium while it experiments with chemical processes it will use in an actual uranium recovery plant. The company plans to start producing uranium as a by-product from its Sotkamo mine towards the end of 2019.

The Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (Stuk) has granted Terrafame a permit under which it can produce up to 600 litres of process solution containing a maximum of 6kg of uranium. The permit is valid from 13 December until 30 June 2018. Terrafame will be permitted to store this uranium solution in suitable premises until the end of June 2023.

Before starting the experimental extraction of uranium, the company must also submit information about radiation protection arrangements and safety arrangements to Stuk.

Terrafame submitted its application for large-scale recover uranium to the Ministry of Employment and Economic Affairs on 31 October.

In addition to the government's permission, in order to start uranium recovery Terrafame also requires approval from Stuk and a uranium sales permit from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. It will also need a permit from the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) to transport uranium abroad for processing.

Terrafame estimates that, once the required permits are granted, uranium recovery could begin towards the end of 2019.

The uranium concentrations in the ore mined by Terrafame are low, but the company says it would be possible to recover "sufficient amount of uranium for commercial purposes, using modern methods".

State-owned Terrafame bought the mining business of Talvivaara Mining Company, which was facing bankruptcy, in August 2015.

Talvivaara Sotkamo - a subsidiary of Talvivaara Mining - applied in April 2010 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 government granted a licence in March 2012. The company subsequently received an environmental permit in May 2014 for its proposed uranium recovery operations at Sotkamo from the Northern Finland Regional State Administrative Agency.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News