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Finnish mining company to apply to extract uranium

Multi-metal company Terrafame has decided to apply to the Finnish government for a permit to recover uranium as a by-product from the Sotkamo mine. In 2015, the company acquired the business operations and assets of Talvivaara Sotkamo Ltd, which had planned to start uranium production at the mine in north-eastern Finland.

Terrafame said it intends to submit its permit application to the Ministry of Employment and Economic Affairs “in the weeks to come”. The company estimates that if the government grants the permit, uranium recovery could begin towards the end of 2019.

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Once it has received Terrafame’s permit application, the ministry will request statements on the application from the municipality of Sotkamo, the town of Kajaani and their neighbouring municipalities, and several other parties. Individuals and communities will also have an opportunity to have their opinions heard during the processing of the application, Terrafame noted.

In addition to the government’s permission, in order to start uranium recovery Terrafame also requires approval from the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority and a uranium sales permit from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. It will also need a permit from the European Atomic Energy Community to transport uranium abroad for processing.

The Sotkamo mine includes a uranium recovery plant, into which €75 million ($88 million) has so far been invested. Terrafame said that, if it starts uranium recovery, a further investment of €10 million in the plant would be required.

The uranium concentrations in the ore mined by Terrafame are low, but the company says it would be possible to recover “sufficient amount of uranium for commercial purposes, using modern methods”.

Terrafame CEO Joni Lukkaroinen said, “During two years of operations, we have ramped up the Sotkamo mine systematically. Our environmental safety is at a good level, and our metals production based on bioleaching is efficient. With the recovery and sale of uranium, we could use the natural resources in the ore that we mine more efficiently without having to make adjustments to the ore mining or bioleaching.”

He added, “In relation to nickel and zinc production, the financial impact of uranium recovery would not be significant, but it would improve Terrafame’s profitability.”

State-owned Terrafame bought the mining business of Talvivaara Mining Company, which was facing bankruptcy, in August 2015.

Talvivaara Sotkamo – a subsidiary of Talvivaara Mining – applied in April 2010 to the Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy for a licence under the country’s Nuclear Energy Act to extract the uranium as a by-product at the Sotkamo mine. The government granted a licence in March 2012. The company subsequently received an environmental permit in May 2014 for its proposed uranium recovery operations at Sotkamo from the Northern Finland Regional State Administrative Agency.

Source: world-nuclear-news

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