Uranium is a common naturally occurring radioactive element found as part of rocks, soil, air and water. It enters surface water or groudwater by leaching from soil and rocks, or from industry sources such as tailings dams in the mining industry or the use of phosphate fertilizers containing uranium in the agricultural industry. Uranium can have a severe effect on human health, being toxic to kidneys and potentially causing an increased risk of cancer over a long period of time. For this reason, the World Health Organisation’s guideline for drinking water is a maximum uranium concentration of 0.030 mg/L. After the uranium has been removed the waste can be difficult to deal with, often requiring radioactive materials handling permits and requiring careful disposal.
In the mining industry, uranium can be present alongside the desired product, such as base metals or rare earth metals, in concentrated streams. This can be an issue as the export or sale of substances containing uranium can be levied and add cost in some countries. Uranium mining operations aim to recover uranium from a liquid or slurry, and metal recovery processes can be used to achieve this.
Conventional technologies for reducing or removing uranium from water are membrane systems, such as reverse osmosis (RO), ion exchange, lime softening, activated alumina treatment, and coagulation/filtration. The removal efficiency ranges from 80 to 99% depending on the process used and concentration of uranium in the feed water.
Our CIF® (continuous ionic filtration) technology can be used to reduce or remove uranium, using a strong base anion exchange resin to target uranium ions. The process uses physical filtration alongside ion exchange, which has the added benefit of removing other impurities in the feed water, and delivering higher removal efficiencies than conventional batch ion exchange systems. It is a robust system that usually doesn’t require pre-treatment, and has a reduced capital and operational expenditure through the more effect use of chemicals.
For Mining applications our CLEAN-IX® technologies can remove unwanted uranium or concentrate uranium in conjunction or independent of a solvent extraction circuit. Using our technology, the concentration of the eluant will be higher than from other technologies.