November 30, 2022

In-Situ Recovery 101: A Quick Guide to “Keyhole Mining”

The constant demand for travel has cost humans a huge amount of rocks, metals, and other minerals, mostly used in projects like building airports, highways, and railroads. This act of mining for minerals has become a huge global industry, with a constant demand for new resources. This entailed an enormous environmental cost, as forests were cleared and habitats destroyed to make way for mines and quarries.

With that said, many companies have developed various solutions to combat the hazards of mining, and one of them is in-situ recovery (ISR). ISR uranium programs have been around for over 60 years, and the technology has been used to recover over 1.5 billion pounds of uranium.

What Is In-Situ Recovery?

In-situ recovery (ISR) is the process that offers a step change in the mining industry, as it entails the extraction of uranium from ore bodies that are not amenable to conventional mining and milling. Since the ISR uranium programs have been around for over 60 years, the technology has recovered over 1.5 billion pounds of uranium.

The process of ISR begins by drilling wells into the ore body and then using a hydraulic pump to inject a specially designed solvent into the ore. The solvent, a mixture of water and ammonia, dissolves the minerals in the ore and allows them to be extracted. 

Afterward, the ammonia is removed from the solution, and the minerals are left behind as a slurry. The slurry is then pumped to the surface, where the minerals are separated from the water and processed.

The in-situ recovery process is low-impact, leading some experts to call it “keyhole mining.” 

The Economic Advantages of In-Situ Recovery

The primary benefit of the ISR uranium program is that it offers a much lower cost per pound. In-situ recovery costs around $10 to $15 per pound, while traditional mining and milling costs around $25 to $30 per pound. This significant cost difference is because ISR does not require the same infrastructure and equipment as traditional mining and milling.

In addition, in-situ recovery does not produce the same environmental impact as traditional mining and milling. This is because it does not require traditional open-pit or underground mining methods. Aside from that, ISR involves the injection of mining solutions into the ore body to extract the desired minerals. The solutions then break down the minerals and allow them to be collected and removed.

Lastly, ISR is more cost-effective than traditional mining and milling because it allows for using lower-grade uranium ores. This is because the mining solutions used in ISR can extract uranium from ores that are not typically amenable to traditional mining and milling methods. Furthermore, the cost of labor and other inputs is typically lower than in traditional mining.

The Future of In-Situ Recovery

ISR will still require significant investment to be fully developed. Despite these challenges, ISR will likely play a key role in uranium’s future industry. This is because it is a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to extract uranium from ore bodies. As a result, it is likely to become increasingly important as the global demand for uranium increases.

Final Thoughts

Incorporating in-situ recovery into your uranium investment strategy is a sound decision, enabling your company to benefit from the increased demand for uranium while minimizing environmental impacts. By understanding these risks and carefully assessing the potential of each ISR project, you can make sound investment decisions that will enable you to benefit from the growth of the uranium industry.

enCore Energy Corp. is committed to becoming the leading uranium ISR producer in the USA. We ensure that our projects are environmentally responsible and offer a low-cost production profile. Get in touch with us today for more information!