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Abstract

In situ mining of uranium typically requires the injection of a reactive leaching solution (lixiviant) such as sodium carbonate/bicarbonate, ammonium carbonate/bicarbonate, or sulfuric acid, and an oxidant such as hydrogen peroxide or oxygen into an ore-bearing, confined aquifer. It also requires the environmental restoration of the source aquifer. The stratigraphy of sandstone uranium deposits typically consists of interbedded layers of poorly consolidated sands and clays and gravels deposited in fluvial or coastal environments. The parameters that influence the migration of lixiviant during mining and restoration in these environments include induced hydraulic gradients, hydrodynamic dispersion, heterogeneity, anisotropy, physicochemical reactions, leakage into and/or through confining layers, and convergence of flow lines due to partial well penetration.

The effectiveness of the various methods of aquifer restoration is sit -specific and is dependent upon the site hydrogeology and hydrogeochemistry, and the chemistry of the lixiviant. Each method of aquifer restoration has advantages and disadvantages. Selection of the most effective and economically feasible method requires detailed knowledge of the site-specific hydrogeologic conditions.