Uranium ore beneficiation
(last updated 6 Jan 2022)
Ore beneficiation is the extraction of higher grade fraction from the mined uranium ore, by physical means such as kinetic processing and/or sorting. It is used for low-grade uranium ore to considerably reduce the amount of material that has to be processed in a uranium mill, while losing only a minor fraction of the contained uranium.
Note: The opposite of ore beneficiation is ore dilution. This is used for some very high grade ores that are blended with lower-grade material to allow for easier processing in a uranium mill, as used for ores from the Cigar Lake and McArthur River mines (Saskatchewan), and proposed for the Roughrider and Midwest projects (Saskatchewan).
To assess the mass and grade balance of beneficiation and dilution processes, try the
> Uranium Ore Sorting Calculator
An uranium ore beneficiation process by separating chunks of higher grade material from lower grade material, using physical processes such as radiometric sorting, or X-ray fluorescence (XRF) based sorting and reverse flotation.
Ore sorting was proposed for the following uranium mine projects:
"In ablation, the slurry from UBHM [underground borehole mining] is ejected from two opposing injection nozzles to create a high energy impact zone. This high energy impact separates the mineralized patina (coating) of uranium from the underlying grain. The uranium bearing particles are found in the fine fractions separated in a subsequent screening process."
- Hansen project (2012 Scoping Study), Colorado, USA
"Test work confirms recovery of approx. 95% U3O8 in approx. 10% of the mined material."
- Sunday Mine Complex (2015), Colorado, USA
- Piñon Ridge mill project (2016), Colorado, USA
- dismissed for Madouéla project (2021 PFS), Niger
"Due to the insufficient commercial operations of Ablation and Solvent Extraction as process routes, [...] a pragmatic approach was adopted to utilize a simple and proven flowsheet including whole ore leaching [...] and then add XRF based ore sorting and reverse flotation in later years, when the underground ore with higher acid consumption is treated."
- U-pgrade™ process
"The U-pgrade™ process uses common physical processing methodologies but applies them in a unique combination to achieve approximately 50 times concentration of the feed ore." [no details about the process given]
- Marenica project (2017 Scoping Study), Namibia
"The U-pgrade™ process is expected to recover approximately 76% of the uranium into approximately 1.6% of the mass, producing a concentrate of about 5,000 ppm U3O8".
- Tumas project (2016), Namibia
"The testwork program demonstrated that processing Tumas ore through the U-pgrade™ process has the potential to reject up to 98% of the mass whilst recovering over 82% of the uranium."
- Napperby project (2014), Northern Territory, Australia
"The commercialisation of Marenica's U-pgrade™ process will likely be a key driver in making the Napperby Project viable in the foreseeable future."