An Environmental Critique of In Situ Leach Mining :
The Case Against Uranium Solution Mining

See also :
Overview of ISL
ISL's Track Record
ISL's Jivin' Jargon!
The nuclear industry claims that the uranium mining technique of In Situ Leaching is "a controllable, safe, and environmentally benign method of mining which can operate under strict environmental controls and which often has cost advantages". (1)

However, this is simply not borne out by the reality of In Situ Leach uranium mines across the world. In order to document this for the campaign to prevent the Uranium ISL proposals at Beverley and Honeymoon in South Australia, Friends of the Earth (Fitzroy) (FoE) and the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) commissioned Gavin Mudd (Environmental Hydrogeologist, Victoria University of Technology) to undertake a detailed research report documenting the international experience and environmental history of ISL mines across the globe, as well as a critique of the mining technique.

The report is now completed and represents a scathing rebuke of the Uranium ISL mining technique.

The ISL technique is not always controllable, safe, nor environmentally benign, and the hidden costs are usually borne by the underground environment. The process of ISL can lead to permanent contamination of groundwater, which is often used by local people and industries for drinking water supplies, and can also contaminate land which was otherwise good agriculturally productive land.

The report, rich in graphics and a total of 154 pages in length, consists of six main sections :

Groundwater in the Environment - a general look at the importance of groundwater, especially across Australia (10 pages)
The Technique of In Situ Leach Mining - an overview of how the ISL mining process works, in theory that is! (14 pages)
Potential Problems of In Situ Leach Mining - a detailed technical critique of things that aren't supposed to happen (12 pages)
American Experience with ISL - the detailed history of ISL in America, and the intractable contaminated sites now being cleaned up (33 pages)
International Experience with ISL - an extensive review of ISL in Eastern Europe, Germany, and new ISL projects being attempted across the Asian continent (20 pages)
Australia's Trial Experimentation with ISL - a complete history and critique of Australia's disasterous experimentation with ISL mining (32 pages)

Report Summary Section Here (HTML)

Download Contents and Summary (PDF ~ 34 kb)

Download Full Report (PDF ~ 2.96 Mb)

Talk Given in Adelaide - June 23, 1998

Tailings & Mine Waste '00 - Latest Papers.

For those wishing to contact the author directly :

Gavin Mudd
(now Research Fellow in Mine Waste Hydrology)
Dept of Civl Engineering, Uni of Queensland - (07) 3365 3745
c/o P.O. Box 6405, St Lucia QLD 4067
Home (07) 3846 7453 and Fax (07) 3365 4599
Email - [email protected]

Page last updated January 4, 2001.

1 - UIC, 1997, In Situ Leach Mining of Uranium, Nuclear Issues Briefing Paper 40 - June 1997, Uranium Information Centre, Melbourne, VIC, 3 pages.

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