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Uranium Mine Feasibility Calculator - HELP

(last updated 12 Feb 2016)

Contents:


Introduction

This calculator performs calculations of the material and cost balance of uranium mine and mill operations.

The calculator uses the following assumptions: the uranium ore is mined in an open pit or underground mine; then, the ore is sorted in a radiometric sorting process; and finally, the post sorting ore is processed in a uranium mill for uranium extraction in the form of U3O8 in uranium ore concentrate. (Observing some precautions, the calculator can also be used for in situ-leach mines.)

The material balance of the process is presented in the Lifetime Material Balance table. Upon entry of one value into any of the input fields of the Lifetime Material Balance table, all other fields are calculated accordingly, once the Calculate button is pressed. So, it is possible to calculate the balance for a given size of an ore deposit, or, a specific balance per tonne of uranium ore mined, as well as for a certain amount of Mlb of U3O8 produced in the uranium mill, for example.
The total cost and profit over the lifetime of the operation are presented in the Lifetime Cost Summary table.

The parameters used for the calculation can be set in the Process, Cost, and Price Parameters tables. These parameters show reasonable initial values which can be modified as needed. There are no other hidden parameters used in the calculation.
By selection from the Select Parameter Set dropdown list, the Process and Cost Parameters can be initialized to some example cases. Once initialized, the parameter fields can be overwritten at the user's discretion.

Immediately upon entry of any parameter, the effect on some specific results can be observed: the contents of the Resulting Specific Operating Cost, the Resulting Uranium Concentrations, and the Resulting Mass Flow tables is updated accordingly; these tables are for display only.

The calculator does not make use of any discounting.

This calculator is suitable for offline use.

 

Sample Parameter Sets

A cautionary notice about the sample parameter sets:
  • The parameter data are taken and/or adapted from company publications.
  • Due to rounding and some inconsistencies, minor deviations may occur in the mass balance and the cost balance, as compared to the companies' figures.
  • If some category given by a company did not match the calculator's categories, the nearest equivalent category was chosen; therefore, the cost structure may look somewhat odd in several cases, but the total cost remains correct.
  • In the rare case that some necessary parameter could not be identified, a reasonable estimate was entered.
  • In the case of in situ-leach mines, the whole process was subsumed in the mill section. In this case, the "Mill Tailings" shown in the Lifetime Material Balance stand for the leached ore staying underground; there is no surface mill tailings deposit involved.

Notes on specific parameter sets:

Arizona 1 mine (underground), Arizona / White Mesa mill, Utah USA
Small underground mine; the ore is hauled to the White Mesa Mill in Utah; the transport cost are included under "General and Administrative". The mill serves multiple mines. The operating cost figures are the reported 1993 cost plus a 43% inflation adjustment.

Colorado Plateau mine (underground - generic) / White Mesa mill, Utah USA
This parameter set was derived from the Arizona 1 case by assuming that the mill is running to capacity on ores mined in many mines operating under conditions comparable to the Arizona 1 case, with the major difference that an ore grade of 0.15% U3O8 is assumed (which is more typical for the Colorado Plateau).

Valencia project (open pit), Namibia
Cost data for imported acid option.

Pele Mountain Elliot Lake project (underground), Ontario, Canada
At this project, only 40% of the mined ore are to be brought to the surface for processing in the uranium mill, while 60% are to be treated by underground bacterial leaching. The parameters entered for the milling process represent the weighted average of these two processing schemes.

Akdala (in situ leaching), Kazakhstan
As the actual recovery rate of the mine is unknown, the mineral reserve tonnage has been back calculated assuming a constant grade.
The plant produces wet yellow cake product with an approximate uranium concentration of 40% U. Further processing of the wet yellowcake product is necessary in order to produce a product which meets international commercial specifications.
The capital cost covers only the capacity upgrade from the former 600 tU/a to 1000 tU/a.

Midwest project (open pit), Saskatchewan, Canada
All ore is mined before milling starts.
The ore is diluted with waste material and transported to the McClean Lake JEB mill for processing.
No account for Nickel/Cobalt recovery.

Cigar Lake project (underground), Saskatchewan, Canada
The ore slurry is to be transported to the McClean Lake JEB and the Rabbit Lake mills for processing.

Dornod project (open pit/underground), Mongolia
This project comprises an open pit and an underground mine. The parameters represent the weighted average.

North Kharasan (in situ leaching), Kazakhstan
The data given in the Technical Report is highly inconsistent, so the mass balance shown is only a guess.

Salamanca I (open pit), Spain
The data released so far is inconsistent, so the mass balance shown is only a guess.

 

Process Parameters

Grade of In Situ Ore: [wt_% U] or [wt_% U3O8] (optional)
Weight-percent of uranium or U3O8 contained in the ore in the deposit (in situ).

Mine: Waste/Ore Ratio
At conventional uranium mines, overburden and waste rock has to be removed to get access to the uranium ore. The waste-to-ore ratio can range between 1 and 5 for underground mines and between 1 and 60 for open pit mines.

Mine: Ore Production Capacity [Mt/a] (optional)
Enter the appropriate value as million t per year, if the mine produces ore at a lower rate than the mill can process. This is particularly useful, if the ore is brought to a mill that processes the ore from several mines.
If no value is entered, the mine production is chosen to make full use of the mill's processing capacity.

Mine: Ore Extraction Losses [wt_%]
Weight-percent of the ore that is not extracted from the deposit.

Mine: Grade of Ore mined [wt_% U] or [wt_% U3O8]
Weight-percent of uranium or U3O8 contained in the ore removed from the ore body. Upon entry of a value into one of the input fields, the other one is filled in automatically.
Ore grades being processed at present cover a wide range of 0.026% U (Rössing, Namibia) over 1.1% U (Key Lake, Canada) up to 12.7% U (McArthur River, Canada).
The Uranium Ore Deposit Calculator can be used to determine this parameter.

Ore Sorting: Ore rejected [wt_%]
Weight-percent of the ore that is rejected during the sorting process.
Set to 0, if no sorting takes place.
Negative values can be entered to account for ore diluting.
The Uranium Ore Sorting Calculator can be used to determine this parameter.

Ore Sorting: Relative Ore grade improvement by sorting [%]
Percentage by which the uranium concentration of the ore accepted during the sorting process is higher than the uranium concentration of the ore introduced into the sorting process.
Set to 0, if no sorting takes place.
Negative values can be entered to account for ore diluting.
Note: The value entered is too high, if the resulting uranium concentration shown for the Ore sorting reject is negative.
The Uranium Ore Sorting Calculator can be used to determine this parameter.

Mill: Ore Processing Capacity [Mt/a]
Annual amount of ore as million t per year processed by the uranium mill.

Mill: Design Life [years] (optional)
Enter the appropriate value, if the mill processes ore from multiple mines.
If no value is entered, the absolute capital cost (entered as $ million) for the mill capacity used is attributed to the mine's lifetime.

Mill: Extraction Losses [wt_%]
Weight-percent of the uranium contained in the milled ore that is not recovered in the ore concentrate product.
The extraction losses are depending on the grade of the ore processed, among others.
If the auto estimate box is checked, an estimated value is determined for the Mill Extraction Losses upon entry of an Ore Grade value and/or a value for Relative Ore grade improvement by sorting.

Mill: Uranium concentration in Ore Concentrate [wt_% U]
Weight-percent of uranium (as U) contained in the final product of the milling process.

 

Cost Parameters

All $ are US-Dollars.

For each of the processing steps Mining, Ore Sorting, Milling, and General & Administrative, cost data can be entered in three categories:

Capital Cost
Nominal capital cost; the calculator does not make use of any discounting.
Nominal Operating Cost
Cost as stated by the operator.
Long-Term Management Cost
This covers any cost not included in the Nominal Operating Cost, for example the long-term tailings management cost; example figures can be found here: Costs of Uranium Mill Tailings Management

Within each table cell, the resulting cost for the parameters given are summed up.

 

Price Parameters

Market Price: Natural Uranium in Ore Concentrate [$ per lb U3O8] or [$ per kg U]
Select price from dropdown list, or enter value either in $ per lb U3O8 or $ per kg U field. Upon entry of a value into one of the input fields, the other one is filled in automatically.

 

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