KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) – India’s State-run Uranium Corporation India Limited (UCIL) will develop the country’s largest uranium deposit, entailing an investment of about $845-million and forecast to yield 6 000 t/d of the element.
The deposit at Kanampalli, in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, would be larger than UCIL’s existing uranium assets close-by at Tummalapalli and Turamdih, in the eastern state of Jharkhand, which on average yield 3 000 t/d of uranium.
Sources said that UCIL was currently in the process of fixing the boundary of the mining lease. It would soon approach the federal government seeking forest clearances and the state government for pollution control certifications.
Since strategic atomic elements fall within the purview of the Department of Atomic Energy, the Atomic Minerals Department is in charge of the Kanampalli asset and once all approvals from various federal government are received, the mine will be handed over to UCIL for development.
UICIL sources said that it would take about six months for all federal approvals to be in place and thereafter development of the uranium reserves would start. It would take about seven years for full production to start from the mine.
UCIL is also undertaking expansion of its uranium mine next door at Tummalapalli and that of Turamdih to increase production capacity to 4 500 t/d, but the Kanampalli mine will still continue to be the largest uranium producing mine in the country.
Overall, UCIL had earmarked capital expenditure of $1.47-billion to ramp up capacities of existing mines and also undertake greenfield projects across 13 projects, including the development of a new asset located in the southern state of Telengana.
As is the case with several uranium projects across the country, UCIL is facing challenges dealing with contamination, local residents’ resistance to re-location and the disposal of radioactive waste.
Currently, the biggest challenge facing the company is resistance from the local population and nongovernmental organisations, alleging that radioactive waste from tailing ponds at its Tummalapalli mine is percolating into groundwater across surrounding villages.
Local politicians have claimed that samples from bore-wells sent for testing to the Centre for Materials and Electronics Technology had established uranium levels of over 4 000 parts per billion.
A section of scientists have also alleged that tailing ponds have not been lined with polyethylene sheets as mandated by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board leading to radioactive waste percolating into surrounding ground water.