Developing Uranium Processing Expertise

Working with academia often gives SRK the chance to investigate alternative solutions or develop new ideas that can aid in the understanding and resolution of clients problems, e.g. SRK has strong links with Cardiff University. Currently, Professor Keith Williams, assisted by Dr. Devin Sapsford, is developing a laboratory facility specifically for uranium processing assessment and development within the Characterisation Laboratories for Environmental Engineering Research (CLEER), as part of the School of Engineering.

The links with the university date back to the time when Cardiff University had a strong mining research and teaching department. Currently, Dr. Rob Bowell and Dr. Matthew Dey of the SRK office in Cardiff are visiting senior research fellows in the School of Engineering.

SRK (UK) regularly uses the current laboratory facilities to undertake metallurgical and environmental testing. With the recent demand for uranium, the need for reliable laboratory facilities to undertake process development and assessment work has increased.

Currently, the CLEER laboratory facilities can only take lower level materials from uranium projects, up to a maximum of
1000 ppm uranium and the quantity of material they can hold is limited. However, they are currently in the process of applying for a licence from the UK Environment Agency to accept materials up to 5% uranium and significantly increase the volume of material for testing. This operational licence is expected to be granted by summer 2009.

The laboratory facilities had a recent £2.5 million refit and have full analytical capabilities, from XRF and XRD, to solution analysis by ICP and IC; in addition, there is access to electron microscope equipment. This has often proved valuable for investigations into what is happening at a particle level when results are not as expected. The facilities also incorporate full preparation facilities and a bottle-roll testing service but with the granting of the licence, they are developing a larger scale capability for solution extraction. This will include heap leach and ISL evaluation services, both from solution extraction to recovery and formation of yellow cake.

Similar collaborative projects are also being sought at the various Research institutes within Russia, which will include full autoclave evaluation and assessment of in-situ methods of uranium extraction.

With access to these facilities, SRK will be able to assess processes independently, as well as assist with the development of processes and investigating materials that are problematic for conventional processing operations.

Rob Bowell: rbowell@srk.co.uk
Matthew Dey: mdey@srk.co.uk



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