Russia to assist Argentina in uranium mining

24 January 2018

Russia and Argentina have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on uranium exploration and mining in the South American country. Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom is also proposing to supply Argentina with a nuclear power plant.

Argentina-Russia - January 2018 - 460 (MRECIC)
The signing of the memorandum (Image: Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

The MoU was signed in Moscow yesterday during the first official visit by Argentine President Mauricio Macri, during which he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The agreement was signed by Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie on behalf of Lino Barañao, the minister of science, technology and productive innovation. It was also signed by Uranium One Group President and CEO Vasily Konstantinov and by the president of exploration company UrAmerica Argentina SA, Omar Adra.

The MoU aims to promote cooperation between Russia and Argentina in uranium exploration and mining, with a particular focus on the in-situ recovery (ISR) method of uranium extraction.

ISR mines pass a leaching solution - such as oxygen with sodium carbonate - through buried sand containing uranium, dissolving it on the way. The solution is then pumped to the surface. The uranium is removed from the solution using an ion-exchange process and the barren solution is re-fortified with oxidant and complexing agent before being returned to the wellfield via the injection wells. However, a small flow (about 0.5%) is bled off and is treated as waste.

This waste water contains various dissolved ions from the orebody and is reinjected into approved disposal wells in a depleted portion of the orebody. This bleed of process solution ensures that there is a steady flow into the wellfield from the surrounding aquifer, and serves to restrict the flow of mining solutions away from the mining area.

In a statement, Argentina's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said ISR is "the most efficient method due to its low costs and minimal environmental impact, given that it does not require soil removal". It added that, under its agreement with Uranium One, "Argentina would thus pioneer its application in Latin America".

"The signing of the memorandum seeks to position Argentina as a global uranium producer in the region and to fully satisfy Argentine demand for this metal from now on, until UrAmerica starts its own production and our country gradually becomes self-sufficient in uranium," the ministry said.

It noted that planned investment in the project - which will create an estimated 500 jobs - totals $250 million.

UrAmerica is a private uranium exploration company based in Buenos Aires. The company has focused its efforts on developing the properties it has successfully consolidated in the Province of Chubut in Argentina, surrounding known high grade deposits and historical mines.

In a press statement following talks between Putin and Macri, Putin said: "Rosatom is proposing a nuclear power plant of Russian design in Argentina based on the latest and safest technological standards."

In April 2015, Russia and Argentina signed an MoU establishing a "framework for cooperation" for construction of a 1200 MWe VVER unit in the South American country. JSC Rusatom Overseas and Nucleoeléctrica Argentina SA also signed a preliminary project development agreement on construction of the country's sixth reactor.

Russia and Argentina signed an intergovernmental agreement in July 2014 on cooperation in the peaceful use of atomic energy. That agreement replaced an earlier one that expired in December 2012 and expanded areas of cooperation. These areas included design, construction, operation and decommissioning of nuclear power plants and research reactors, including water desalination facilities. They also included support of the nuclear fuel cycle, radioactive waste management, and isotope production.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News