Critical review of acid in situ leach uranium mining: 2. Soviet Block and Asia
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The technique of in situ leach (ISL) uranium mining is well established in the USA, as well as being used extensively in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The method is being proposed and tested on uranium deposits in Australia, with sulphuric acid chemistry and no restoration of groundwater following mining. ISL mines in the former Soviet Union generally used acid reagents and were operated without due consideration given to environmental protection. At many former mine sites, the extent of groundwater contamination is significant because of high salinity, heavy metal and radionuclide concentrations compared with pre-mining and changes in the hydrogeological regime caused by mining. After the political collapse of the Soviet Union by the early 1990s, most uranium mines were shut down or ordered to be phased out by government policy. Programmes of restoration are now being undertaken but are proving technically difficult and hampered by a lack of adequate financial resources. The history and problems of acid ISL sites in countries of the former Soviet Union and Asia are presented in this study.
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