Uranium: posing new pipeline possibilities

Heathgate Resources President and Director David Williams addressed the APIA Adelaide dinner, held on 17 March 2010. Heathgate operates the Beverley Uranium Mine, located approximately 300 km northeast of Port Augusta in South Australia. The mine is accessing a 21,000 tonne deposit of uranium using in situ recovery (ISR) techniques.

Compared to open cut methods, ISR is a safer, more environmentally friendly way of recovering uranium. Mr Williams explained that an oxidant and a small amount of acid are added to groundwater to mobilise the uranium. This is then piped to the processing plant, where the uranium is extracted from the mining solution. When the uranium has been extracted, groundwater is pumped back into the aquifer to continue the uranium recovery process.

Mr Williams said that the Beverley mine development includes 110 extractor wells and 330 injector wells. These wells are connected to 11 well houses via 88 km of 90 mm spider pipelines. From the well houses, the uranium solution is transported to the processing plant via a 560 mm diameter, 14.2 km of high density polyethylene trunkline.

The pipelines are constructed above ground because of the short lifespan – approximately 2-3 years – of uranium well fields. When the well field is exhausted the pipelines are disconnected and taken to the next field, Mr Williams explained.

Mr Williams said that, although the pipelines associated with ISR uranium developments weren’t as long as the industry is used to constructing, the uranium sector provides new opportunities for pipeline construction.

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