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Uranium and Thorium Resources in Chile

Prospection and Recovery Experiences


Congreso Minero Mundial
Interregional CYTED-UNECE-IAEA UNFC Workshop
Colegio de Ingenieros de Chile
Santiago, Chile
Comisin
Chilena
de
Energa
Nuclear

Pedro A. Orrego Alfaro


M. Sc. Metallurgical Engineer

9 12 Julio 2013

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction

Uranium exploration in Chile

Legal status of uranium in Chile

Future activities required

Uranium metallurgy

Conclusions

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NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE, DEVELOPMENT IN CHILE

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GEOLOGY & MINING SECTION


MAIN OBJECTIVES
To establish, increase and maintain of currently geological
estimation of the potential Atomic Natural Materials and
Interested

Nuclear

Materials

in

the

country,

to

the

governmental considerations into national policies, also,


requirement of public and private companies.
To develop and investigate technologies for the concentration
and purification of Atomic Natural Materials and Interested
Nuclear Materials and/or solutions that contain them.
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GEOLOGICAL

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AREA

MOST COMMON MINERAL OCURRENCES IN CHILE

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MOST COMMON MINERAL OCURRENCES IN CHILE

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METHODOLOGY PROSPECTING OF URANIUM ORES IN CHILE

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RESOURCES, HYSTORICAL REVIEW

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MAIN METALLOGENIC PROVINCES IN NORTH


OF CHILE

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1.

Superficial deposits area, Upper Cenozoic

2.

Metasomatic and vein related deposits


areas, Upper Cretaceous

3.

Hydrothermal - magmatic deposits area,


Upper Cenozoic

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GEOLOGICAL FAVORABILITY FOR URANIUM

Applying basic geological parameters


for major uranium deposits models
worldwide to national geology.

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MAIN PROSPECTS KNOWN IN CHILE

Salar Grande, I Region


Cerro Carmen, III Region
Phosphate rocks at Baha Inglesa, III Region

Productora, III Region


Cerro Castillo, IX Region

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SALAR GRANDE

Pull-apart basin, salt flat, formed by tectonic accomodation


structures related to Atacama fault system in Pleistocene

Previosly explored by ESSEX minerals in 1977-1981

Lens

shaped

and

erratic

mineralization

of

carnotite

and

schroeckingerite from 200 up to 1,000 ppm of U 3 O 8 in blue halite

3 Structural dominions
Dextral N-S faults dipping 80 70 E
NW-SE transpressive dextral lineations (Salar Grande fault
system, with extensional T type faults associated)
E-W Normal faults, dipping 50 60 N

10

radiometric

anomalous

zones,

related

to

these

fault

intersections
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CHILEAN PHOSPHORITES
They occur in marine sediments
of the continental shelf off the
coast between 23and 31LS.
Sediments
unconformably
basement.

to

overly
Paleozoic

From north to south, the main


manifestations are Mejillones,
Bahia Inglesa, Bahia Salado and
Tongoy.

AR
survey

Phosphate rocks, phosphorites


and vein deposits with apatite,
all of them from low to medium
quality grade in P 2 O 5.
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CERRO CARMEN

Located 20 km NW of Diego de Almagro city in III Region, north of


Chile.

Chargeability anomaly associated.

Disseminated davidite-mineralized bodies, in a 4002.000m zone at


surface.

Skarn deposit with uranium (U) and Rare Earth Elements (REE)
associated, hosted in intermediate to basic volcanic rocks.
Other elements also present, like Th, Ti, Fe, Y and Sc.

In a structural trend NW with emplacements of monzonitic and


aplitic intrusive rocks from upper Cretaceous age with K
metasomatism and mineralization of U and REE.
In the contact of volcanic rocks from La Negra Formation
(Pliensbachian to upper Jurassic), with Sierra Aspera Pluton
(Neocomian).

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PROSPECTO PRODUCTORA
12 Km SW of Vallenar city in III region.
Ryolites (hauterivian-barremian)
in
contact
with
middle
Cretaceous
intrusive unit.
Hydrothermal
alteration
zone
of
3x0.7km, trending N10W.
Development of regional and contact
methamorphism
and
potassic
metasomatism,
enhancement
of
perthitic structures.

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(Aragon Resources Limited).

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Mineralized dikes, after


hydrothermal
alteration
they add chlorite and Fe +3
to the system, and also P is
released from apatite

Fixation of uranium as
torbenite and austenite in
Prospecto Productora

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RESULTS FOR THE EXPLORATION OF URANIUM

7% of the Chilean continental territory has been explored.


The main results are:
1,200 radio-metric and geochemical anomalies.
80 occurrences of Uranium and Thorium.
70 Sectors of interest.
10 Uranium Prospects of Thorium and Rare-earth metals.
In 4 prospects, preliminary geological studies have been conducted.
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IDENTIFIED CONVENTIONAL RESOURCES


(Reasonably Assured and Inferred Resources)

Source: Uranium 2011: Resources, Production and Demand. (Red book)

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UNDISCOVERED CONVENTIONAL RESOURCES


(Prognosticated and Speculative Resources)

Source: Uranium 2011: Resources, Production and Demand. (Red book)

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UNCONVENTIONAL RESOURCES AND OTHER MATERIALS

Source: Uranium 2011: Resources, Production and Demand. (Red book)

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URANIUM RESOURCES, CHILE (TONNES U)

Source: Uranium 2011: Resources, Production and Demand. (Red book)


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FUTURE ACTIVITIES REQUIRED


Training and formation of new human resources.
Update uranium exploration techniques and equipment.
Focus of exploration on first priority areas and development of projects in
Project Portfolio [Uranium geological research projects needed to improve

understanding of deposits models detected, define new models and advance in


determining the country's uranium potential.].

Source: Investigacin Geolgica del Potencial de Uranio, Chile, Avance-2001. Cartera de Proyectos.
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LEGAL SITUATION OF URANIUM IN CHILE


Law 18,097 enacted on January 21, 1982
Article 3 rd : They are concessible, and for them any interested party
may be constitute a mining concession, all substances metallic and
nonmetallic minerals, and in general, all fossil substances, in whatever
form they are naturally present, No mining concession
susceptible liquid or gaseous hydrocarbons, lithium,
Law 18,248 enacted on September 26, 1983, CODIGO DE MINERIA
Article 10 nth : The State has, at regular price and market arrangements,
the right first choice purchase of mining products originated in mines
developed in the country in which the thorium and uranium have
significant presence... the producer must notify their production
to Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission so that it can exercise that right by
the State, and will point out the quantity, quality and other
characteristics of the product, its market price and the manner, timing
and place of delivery ......
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METALLURGICAL

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AREA

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METHODOLOGY FOR OBTAINING URANIUM CONCENTRATES


Crushing
Milling
Leaching (H2SO4, Fe3+, MnO2, NaHCO3 Na2CO3)
(UO2)

(UO22+)

Acid (Ganga Silica)

Basic (Ganga calcareous)

PLS
Solvent Extraction

Ionic Exchange
(NH4)2 U2 O7
(NH4)4 UO2 (CO3)3
UO4 * 2H2O
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Precipitation
Yellow - Cake
[U3O8] > 75 %
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AMONIUM DIURANATE - ADU


NH4OH

(UO2(SO4)3)4-

Precipitation

(NH4)2U2O7

2 UO 2 (SO 4 ) 34 + 6 NH 4 OH (NH 4 ) 2 U 2 O 7 + 2 (NH 4 ) 2 SO 4 + 3 H 2 O + 4 SO 4

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AMONIUM URANIL CARBONATE - AUC

(NH 4 ) 2 U 2 O 7 + 6 HNO3 2 UO 2 (NO3 ) 2 + 2 NH 4 NO 3 + 3 H 2 O


UO 2 (NO3 ) 2 + 3 (NH 4 ) 2 CO 3 (NH 4 ) 4 UO 2 (CO 3 ) 3 + 2 NH 4 NO 3

UO 2 (NO3 ) 2 + 3 H 2 O + 6 (NH 3 ) + 3 CO 2 (NH 4 ) 4 UO 2 (CO 3 )3 + 2 NH 4 NO3

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BI-HIDRATED URANIUM PEROXIDE

(NH 4 ) 2 U 2 O 7 + 6 HNO3 2 UO 2 (NO3 ) 2 + 2 NH 4 NO 3 + 3 H 2 O


UO 2 (NO3 ) 2 + H 2O 2 + 2 H 2O UO 4 2H 2O (S ) + 2 HNO3

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75% U3O8

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URANIUM DIOXIDE

(NH 4 ) 2 U 2 O 7 + T 0 2 UO 3 + 2 NH 3 + H 2 O

UO 3 + H 2 + N 2 UO 2 + H 2 O

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URANIUM TETRAFLUORIDE

UF6 + 2 H 2 O UO 2 F2 + 4HF

UO 2 F2 + 2SnCl 2 + 4HF UF4 + SnCl 2 F2 + 2H 2 O

UF4 + 2Mg U 0 + 2MgF2

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TREATMENT OF A RADIOACTIVE MINERAL, PROSPECTO PRODUCTORA.


The ore sample, has an average of
0.1011% U 3 O 8 , coming from Productora,
located in near to of Vallenar city, III
Region.
Ore corresponds to Davidita (Fe 2+ , TR, U,
Ca, Na, Zr, Th) (Ti 4+ , Fe 3+ , U, V 3+ , Cr 3+ ) 3 (O,
OH) 7 ), ilmenite weakly magnetic, further,
secondary minerals idiomorphic to
powdery
types
torbernite
((Cu(UO 2 ) 2 Si 2 O 5 ) 3 x5H 2 O) and autunite
(Ca(UO 2 ) 2 (PO 4 ) 2 x10-12(H 2 O)).
The ore, after being crushed and
conditioning, was leached with sulfuric
solutions in pad.
The obtained results can be summarized
in the recovery of 89% of the uranium
and an acid consumptions of around 32
kgH 2 SO 4 /tonnes and 26 kg H 2 SO 4 /kg U 3 O 8
R in the leaching stage.

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TREATMENT OF A RADIOACTIVE MINERAL, PROSPECTO PRODUCTORA.


Feed solutions to the SX showed a content of 1.8 g/L U 3 O 8 and pH 1,
which are contacted with the organic phase in three stages arranged
in series, it was obtained refining concentrations lower than 0.01
g/L.
Feeds loaded organic phase stripping stage generating U 3 O 8 rich
electrolyte of 20 g/L.

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TREATMENT OF A RADIOACTIVE MINERAL, PROSPECTO PRODUCTORA.


Rich electrolyte from SX is precipitated using NH 4 OH to pH 7.5,
obtaining yellow-cake or ADU

"Yellow Cake" obtained by treatment of


ore from the Prospecto Productora.

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ASOCIATION Cu U Mo : PROJECT CCHEN - CODELCO


The objetive of this project was recover uranium and molybdenum in its
commercial forms, from hydrometallurgical processes. In consideration
of CODELCO, the business opportunity is interesting, since the potential
contribution of this project allows a reduction of the net cost of copper
production of the Division.
The proposed processes by Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission,
involves directly co-extract Mo and U from RTs aqueous solutions
employing hydrometallurgical techniques.
In response to low concentrations of these elements in aqueous
solutions, the process proposed uses ion exchange techniques to
concentrate these elements, after that, them are separated by solvent
extraction and precipitating.
The Mo and U recovered was precipitate obtained Yellow Cake and
Calcium Molybdate.
The results demonstrate that it is technically feasible to recover
molybdenum and uranium from RTs acid solutions.
The efficiencies of the used processes, are possible to improve.
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FLOW SHETT PROPOSED TO DEVELOP IN RTD


PLS Copper SX
Effluent Copper
SX

IX
Mo - U
H2SO4

HCl

Resin
Regeneration

CaCl2 * 2H2O

Elution
U

Solvent
Extraction
U

NH4OH

NaCl

Elution
Mo

Precipitation
U

Precipitation
Mo

Yellow - Cake

Calcium Molibdate
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ASOCIATION Cu U Mo : PROJECT CCHEN - CODELCO


PRODUCTS OBTAINED IN PHASE I

(NH4)2 U2 O7

82% U3O8

(NH4)2 U2 O7
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CaMoO4

67% MoO3

CaMoO4

PRODUCTS OBTAINED IN PHASE II

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CONCLUSIONS
7% of the Chilean continental territory has been prospected.
The 93% of the country has not yet been prospected for uranium and
thorium.
The future prospecting project in the country should be focused on
priority areas and to the development of activities included in the
project portfolio, corresponding to 179 projects.
Chile has declared a total of 3,728.8 tonnes of uranium as RAR + SAR I.
Two kinds of uranium concentrates were obtained: ammonium diuranate
and ammonium uranyl carbonate, commercial quality and nuclear purity.
At laboratory level, processes to obtain UO 2 and UF 4 were developed.
Metallic uranium was obtained by magnesiotermia process.

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Gracias..

Gracias...
Identificacin de Prospectos y Propuestas de Recuperacin de Uranio y Tierras Raras en Chile

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Pedro A. Orrego Alfaro


M. Sc. Metallurgical Engineer
Geology and Mining Section
Nuclear Materials Department
Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission
Amuntegui N95
Santiago, Chile
(562) 24702801
P.O.: 8340701
Email: porrego@cchen.cl
www.cchen.gob.cl