enCore Energy is focused on in-situ recovery (‘ISR’) technology, a lower cost and environmentally friendly method of uranium extraction at its Texas production facilities. ISR extraction is achieved by injecting a fortified water solution that reverses the natural process that deposited the uranium in the sandstones. The uranium-bearing solution is brought back to surface through a series of recovery wells and the uranium is then concentrated on resin beads to allow for efficient transportation to a central processing facility. The uranium is further concentrated and dried into a powder form, known as yellowcake, which is then sold. This pattern of injection and recovery wells, plus surrounding monitor wells that serve as a safeguard, is called a wellfield.
The ISR process extracts uranium with minimal disturbance to existing natural conditions, leaving the host rocks ‘in place’. This process results in a significant cost reduction that allows for low-grade deposits to be recovered in a safe, efficient and environmentally friendly method. In contrast to underground and open pit mining, the differences are significant and meaningful for everything from permitting to operations to reclamation. Ultimately ISR results in a future with greatly reduced or eliminated open pits, underground shafts, mills, tailings ponds, dams, waste dumps, and smelters.
In-situ recovery for uranium was commercially introduced during the 1970s in the USA, and then applied in many countries over last 50 years. enCore Energy’s Director, Dennis Stover, PhD, was awarded several of the first patents for the process in the United States starting in 1977. The management team at enCore Energy has a wide range of expertise in the field of ISR, from permitting to production. ISR has become the dominant recovery method and transformed the uranium sector with over 50% of all uranium extraction in the United States now achieved through ISR.
The wells used for injection and recovery are all closely monitored and arranged to ensure the containment and control of the mining solution and protection of ground water. Closure of an ISR operation usually involves cessation of solution injection with continued, moderate, recovery well pumping that flushes any remaining solution from the rocks so that the land can be returned to its pre-mining state.
The United States has very strict guidelines for ensuring the safety and health of its citizens. The Department of Environmental Quality is tasked with monitoring ISR operations and protecting ground water quality.