07 August 2013
On 9-13 July 2013, the IAEA organized a workshop in Santiago, Chile, to discuss and share experiences in applying the United Nations Framework Classification for Fossil Energy and Mineral Reserves and Resources 2009 (UNFC–2009) for the evaluation of uranium and thorium resources. The workshop was held under the auspices of an interregional IAEA technical cooperation (TC) project “Supporting Uranium Exploration, Resource Augmentation and Production Using Advanced Techniques”. It was supported by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Ibero-American Programme for Science and Technology for Development (CYTED) and hosted by the Colegio de Ingenieros de Chile A.G, Comisión Chilena de Energía Nuclear, and the Ministerio de Minería, Chile. Sixty participants and experts from forty countries attended the workshop.
Uranium and thorium are essential resources for the sustainability of the world’s energy development. A responsible recovery process of these elements is, therefore, very important.
UNFC-2009 provides a simple and uniform format for the reporting of energy reserves and resources to ensure sustainable approaches to resource extraction, including the recovery of uranium and thorium.
During the workshop, the experts shared various experiences and approaches for the in-depth application of UNFC-2009 in the effective management of uranium and thorium resources. A special emphasis was placed on comprehensive extraction where uranium and thorium are produced as by-products of other commodities, such as copper and phosphates. UNFC-2009 offers a framework for assessing such recovery processes and for exploring the benefits of the extraction of other elements, such as rare-earth and molybdenum from conventional uranium projects. Moreover, the workshop focused on tools for global communication in evaluating and assessing uranium and thorium resources from a sustainability point of view, where recovery is maximized and the footprint of mining and use of energy and water are minimized.
|Participants engaged in sub-group discussions, focused on their specific areas of interest.||About 60 experts from some 40 Member States shared experiences in the use of UNFC-2009 for the reporting of uranium and thorium resources.|
Several workshop participants expressed interest in the recovery of uranium as a by-product of the fertilizer industry, and uranium and thorium recovery from rare-earth projects, such as coal and lignite. The IAEA’s World Distribution of Uranium Deposits (UDEPO) database records over 140 such deposits totalling 22 million tonnes of uranium, which could possibly be recovered with little burden on the environment. It was resoundingly agreed that such approaches could help elevate the social acceptance of uranium mining activities.
Alberto Salas, the President of the Chilean Mining Association remarked that “Chile is considering uranium extraction from copper ores. It is one aspect of technological innovation exploring possible extraction of molybdenum, gold and other elements from the same ore. Though in small quantities, taken together these by-products are a treasure trove waiting to be discovered.”
Workshop participants found UNFC-2009 to be a useful platform for providing a global language to share these experiences and help in seeking regional or local solutions in the event that new uranium mining projects are developed. Participants also discussed at length the needs for technical assistance.
Under the interregional TC project, the IAEA assists Member States to strengthen their capabilities in uranium exploration, resource augmentation and production. This includes different phases of exploration, resources evaluation, uranium mining and processing, and applying good practices to ensure sustainability of all activities.
View workshop presentations here.
UNFC – the tool of choice for optimizing natural resource management
Santiago de Chile, World Capital of Uranium and Thorium