Kazakhstan: Mining with no mine

Shaft of mining extraction installation, Katco site, Kazakhstan

Why dig a mine when you can dig wells? More than 47% of the world’ uranium is produced by In Situ Recovery (ISR) today.

The Katco* mine in Kazakhstan is one of the largest ISR operations in the world and currently Orano’s leading uranium production site. With ISR, an acidic solution is injected into the ground to selectively dissolve uranium in sedimentary deposits. The liquid containing the uranium (called pregnant liquor) is pumped and routed to a processing plant, where the uranium is extracted and concentrated. Once stripped of uranium, the acidic solution is reinjected into the wells in this closed-loop process.

When the geological properties of the ground make its use possible, the ISR technology is the best way to mine low-grade deposits. This technique has helped make Kazakhstan the world’s leading uranium producer.

* Katco is a joint venture between Orano (51%) and Kazatomprom (49%), the national company in charge of nuclear operations in Kazakhstan.

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