Why In-Situ Recovery Is a Great Mining Method

Mining is the extraction of geological materials and valuable minerals out of the ground, with the most popular mining methods being open surface, underground and in-situ mining. Unlike the other mining methods mentioned, in-situ mining doesn’t involve a lot of digging or landscape disturbance.

Also known as in-situ leaching and in-situ recovery, the method isn’t a new innovation in the natural resources industry, having been used for more than five decades to mine uranium. Nearly 50% of the total uranium mined globally is mined using in-situ recovery. Other minerals that can be extracted from the earth using this method include copper, silver and sometimes, gold.

In-situ mining involves artificially dissolving a mineral deposit underground before extracting it for processing via boreholes that have been drilled into the earth. The process is not only environmentally friendly but also cost effective.

So why is this mining method not more widely used?

For miners to use in-situ leaching, geological conditions have to be just right. The following criteria is used by geologists to check whether an area has the right conditions for using this mining method.

For starters, the mineral deposit must be under the water table, as this will allow the fluids used to dissolve the mineral to move throughout the ore body. Additionally, the mineral to be mined must be found in a highly permeable ore body and also has to be soluble with the fluid to be used, which is mostly a weak acid.

If the location meets these criteria and has a huge mineral deposit, then the method can be used to extract the mineral.

So, how are minerals extracted using in-situ leaching?

After checking to see whether the location meets the right conditions, mining can start. This happens when the company drills holes into the ore body, after which a leaching solution is pumped through the wells. The solution moves through the fractured rock that contains the ore and leaches the mineral, with recovery wells extracting the mineral-rich solution, which is pumped to the surface for processing.

The leaching solution is then recycled back to the well field after the mineral has been extracted from it. After mining in an area is finished, the resulting holes are flushed with water to get rid of remaining leaching solution while the surface is restored to its original condition.

Are there any advantages of using in-situ recovery?

Apart from being environmentally friendly, the mining method also creates a safer environment for mine workers and lowers operating and capital costs. These are major benefits that any mining company should aim for if the site conditions are right. This is exactly what Energy Fuels Inc. (NYSE American: UUUU) (TSX: EFR) is doing at its Nichols Ranch project in Wyoming and its Alta Mensa project in Texas.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Energy Fuels Inc. (NYSE American: UUUU) (TSX: EFR) are available in the company’s newsroom at http://ibn.fm/UUUU

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