At the initiative of Asian foundation and with collaboration of NGO Responsible mining serial discussions on use of natural resources are held each month. Dr.David Mallighan, Ph.D. N.Norov, Director of Atomic studies center of NUM, and others attended the discussion, sharing views on how effective and useful would uranium ore mining be. What is uranium? What can we benefit from it?
Mongolia talks about mining, concentrating and using uranium ore lately. Currently American, French and Canadian companies started exploring uranium in several places in Mongolia. There are uranium occurrence veins south from Mardai deposit in Dornod aimag to Dornogobi aimag. It contains not only uranium ore but also coal containing uranium. In addition there is uranium occurrence in Bumbat coal deposit in Suhbaatar aimag. Generally, Mongolia is rich in uranium.
Uranium is a chemical element and is distinguished by its radioactivity. Uranium ore is a mineral similar to coal, petroleum, copper and molybdenum. As we know uranium is used for nuclear weapons but after being treated with high level concentration. We have no hi-tech for uranium concentration. We could use uranium as fuel in nuclear plant, producing 1 gram uranium with energy that could be extracted from 6 tons coal burning. This is very economical. Professor N.Norov comments on whether atomic plant could be established in Mongolia, “Atomic plant would be useful for Mongolian economy, ecology and technology. In case we engage in uranium mining, we could use 2 times cheaper nuclear weapon. Since uranium is radioactive element control must be tight and it could be regulated via state policies. Investments will be in accordance with market rules. If we don’t have money foreign companies could come and negotiate efficiencies. Uranium is useless and invaluable when it’s underground. An atomic plant with 2 reactors of 500 megawatt each is sufficient”.
It should be used before uranium price goes down
Establishing atomic power plant, using uranium domestically and trading at the world market would be beneficial. Uranium price which was USD10 in 1990 reached USD 90 now. However major companies warned that uranium price would go down by 2018 due to decreasing uranium consumption. Thus scholars urged the mining of uranium since the risk is we couldn’t get its benefits.
What method is useful in Mongolia for mining uranium?
Uranium ore in Mongolia contains average uranium and there are 3 ways for mining uranium, including underground gravitation and surface gravitation. These methods are suitable for Mongolia. Foreign invested companies tested uranium extraction in Saihandulaan Mountain in Dornogobi aimag and in Haraathairhan deposits in Dundgobi aimag. This method is eco-friendly, cost-saving and it doesn’t dig holes.
So far no Mongolian company mines uranium. They all have exploration licenses only. Gobi Gurvan Saihan US invested company tried to concentrate uranium in Dundgobi. Also Emeelt mines company holding licenses in Gurvan bulag deposits in Mardai just finished its uranium mining plant. It is waiting for minerals law passed.
How much uranium resource we have?
Uranium resource in our country could supply 1 year needs of 430 atomic plants operating in the world as of 1998. However it isn’t a small number. Many companies started to engage in uranium exploration. As results, uranium recourse increases. Scholars guesstimate that uranium resources of Mongolia do not exceed 10 percent of global resources. Many countries including Korea and Japan, which has no uranium resources at all, are interested in importing uranium from Mongolia. Recently Japan proposed to buy power plant ash but the Government refused because ash contains uranium. It shows that Mongolia is very tight and strict on uranium use and export.
Global control on uranium use
With relevance to uranium mining and use, the issue of control is very important. Since uranium is the radioactive element which is used for nuclear weapon production, it is under international concern. As we run only uranium explorations there is less control. INO controls and informs on how much uranium is used for and how much plutonium is produced when atomic plant is formed in a country which started mining uranium.