Uranium Industry of Ukraine Prospective and Development - АЕСУ

Yuriy A. Bakarzhiyev, and Oleksandr Lysenko
Nuclear Energy Systems of Ukraine LLC, Kiev, Ukraine

Abstract: Described uranium mineral resources of Ukraine, its structure and ability to supply Ukrainian Nuclear Energy Industry required volume of uranium. Classified main geological and genetic types of uranium ore — sodium-uranium formation in the albitites, hydrogenic sandstone type, uranium-bitumen type in the salt-doom structures, vien type in the fractured crystalline rocks and others. Evaluated potentiality of each type. Deposits of sodium-uranium formation mined by conventional underground method. Each object has reserves between 30 and 90 Kiloton (Kt) of U. Ore has high cost of mining. Second important type is hydrogenic sandstone deposits. It discovered up to 30 such deposits and ore occurrences. Summary uranium reserves in these deposits are more than 20 Kt of U and resources are up to 60 Kt of U. Ore has a low mining cost, situated at the depth down to 100 m and suitable for the ISL method. For developing these deposits was found private company “Nuclear Energy Systems of Ukraine” LLC (“NESU” LLC). In foreseen future
company is looking for mining albitite type uranium deposits as well. Developing of U deposits albitite, and vien type are not economic at present time. Uranium production in Ukraine covered only 30% from requirements. This situation makes Ukrainian uranium market very attractive for the investments.

Key words: uranium deposits, albitite uranium ore, uranium ore sandstone type, “NESU”LLC, in situ leaching

1. Introduction

Since USSR collapsed most of industries of Ukraine face crisis including geology and mining. Before, they
were a stable supplier of mineral resources for mining-metallurgy industry, including energy complex. During USSR great potential of energy mineral resources was created which assured Ukraine by coal, peat, uranium. Sufficient part of oil and gas produced from Ukrainian deposits as well.

At present, most of reserves from deposits of energy minerals almost depleted. In the first, it is uranium deposits. Only  company  who  is  mining  uranium deposits in Ukraine – “Eastern  Mining  Processing Combinate”  (“Vost GOK”). Company includes three mines: Smolinska mine who is running Vatutinske deposit, Ingulska mine running 2 deposits Michurinske and Csentralne, Novokonstantinivska mine is running Novokonstantinivske deposit. Reserves of Vatutinske and Michurinske deposits  almost mined out. Major portion of Csentralne deposit reserves bedding down under the city Kropivnisckiy (regional center), that is making mining complicated.

“VostGOK” main prospects related with Novokonstantinivske deposit which is largest not only in Ukraine but in Europe [1]. Developing of the deposit is on the first stage. Mining of uranium ore is carrying out on the horizons which were made during exploration of deposit in 80s-90s  last Century. To achieve project productivity (2.5 Kt of U) mine need to develop new deeper horizons, to build new process plant, create infrastructure on surface. To realize such activity company required huge investments (hundreds of millions USD). “VostGOK” is a state company and have no chance to attract any money.

All mentioned deposits belongs to sodium-uranium (albitite) formation and located in Kirovograd region.

Ukraine has developed Nuclear Energy Industry who produce more than 55% of electricity from total balance and need about 2400 t of U per year (Fig. 1). Same time local U mining company can supply only 30% from requirements. Ukrainian Nuclear Energy Company “Energoatom” purchase rest uranium from abroad but ready to buy uranium from local market for very attractive price.

Fig. 1  Zaporizhska nuclear power plant

In 2017 Cabinet Ministers of Ukraine approved program calls “Energy Strategy of Ukraine until 2035”.  

Strategy outlines all sector of Ukrainian Energy Industries. In connection to Nuclear Energy, it is indicated points such as:

  • diversify nuclear reactor technologies for the construction of new Nuclear Power Plants (NPP) after 2030
  • increase mining of uranium in Ukraine to meet NPP consumption, by involving into production new uranium deposits. 

2. Uranium Mineral Base

According  to  information  from  State  Sсientific Company “Geoinform  of  Ukraine”  in  our  country discovered 46  uranium  deposits  and ore occurrences,

but  state  balance  of  resources  accounts  only  17 explored  deposits.  All  these  deposits  located  in  the Ukrainian Shield and Dnipro-Donesck Depression and belongs  to  known  in  the  world  geo-industrial  types: sodium-uranium and potash-uranium formation, uranium-bitumen, sandstone (hydrogenic), hydrothermal vien types (Fig. 2).

Structure of uranium resources of Ukraine have not searched  very  deeply.  Economically  important  only albitite type deposits in the sodium metasomatite and hydrogenic type deposits in the sandstone of Buchak series in Paleogene sediments. Uranium resources with cost category up to 80 USD per kgU are about 60 Kt of U, which is approximately 30% from total balance.

Most of explored resources are albitite ore type with high cost of mining. Total explored resources of this type of ore can be evaluated more than 200 Kt of U. Approximately same amount we can declare as prospective resources  [1].  Now only these deposits Mining Company “VostGOK” is exploiting.

Fig. 2 Map of Uranium deposits of Ukraine.

As we can see, it is a large potential for the extention and  increasing  the quality of uranium mineral base  in Ukraine, which  is crucial  to aim  independence in the sphere of Nuclear Energy.

We  need  to  pay  attention  to  deposits  hydrogenic (sandstone),  uranium-bitumen  and  hydrothermal  vien type at first.  From  the  mentioned  deposits  most attractive is hydrogenic ore type.

Hydrogenic deposits in Ukraine, according to industrial importance and volume, are taking a second place after deposits in sodium metasomatite, but should we consider cost category it is first of cause.  

These objects are located in the paleo dales of Dniprovsky uranium ore region [2] and related to coal bearing sedimentary rocks in the Buchak series of Paleogene.  This  kind  of  rocks  occur  on  the  large territory  in  the  central  part  of  the  country  from Zhitomir  to Dnipropetrovsk  regions. Deposits are not big, resources from 1 to 5 Kt of U, but there are many of  them and summary resources are significant [1, 3]. According to data from IAEA, Ukraine is a member of this organization since the beginning, total reserves of deposits sandstone type can be around 20 Kt of U, but resources  potential  is  much  larger,  because  it  was discovered many  ore  occurrences, and it needs investment to improve quality these resources.   

In Ukraine  two  deposits  sandstone  type mined  out already — Devladovskoye (Dnepropetrovsk region) in 1964-1983 and Bratskoye (Nikolayev region) in 1972-1983 [1,  3]. Importanly, Devladovskye  deposit was pioneer  in  the world, where  first  time have been applied technology In Situ Leaching (ISL) designed by engineers  SE  Kirovgeology  [3].  Such  a  technology became  a  very  efficient  and  now  is  applicable  for mining  not  only  uranium,  and  range  of  different minerals. Now, 60% of world uranium is mined by this method (Fig. 3).

Method  ISL  has  a  radical  advantage  against conventional underground and open pit mining: mining cost is low, time for the construction of mine is short, friendly  to  environment,  land  surface  do  not  destroy and after mining  return  to previous condition,  safe  to aquifer horizons. In the Paleogene Buchak sediments of Dniprovskiy ore region were found 13 uranium deposits, which are suitable for ISL method [1]. On Safonivske deposit in Nikolayev  region  and  Novoguriyeske  deposit  in Dnepropetrovsk  region was made  ISL  pilot field  test during exploration and results obtained were positive. It was  determined  natural  conditions  of  uranium  ore bedding in the permeable coal-sandstone rocks, which are  between  waterproof  horizons.  It  was  classified technological features of the ore and determined the ability to mine deposits by ISL method.  Despite received positive  result, deposits did not  involve  into production, because of USSR  collapse and economic problem at the end of 80s.

Fig. 3 Devladove deposit map and cross section.

Uranium-bitumen  deposits  salt-dome  type (Adamivske,  Krasnopilske,  Berecske)  were  found  in the  south-west  part  of  Dnipro-Donesck  Depression, inside the borders of Slovyansk anticlinal [2]. Uranium ore is bedding on the depth 1000 m and has no prospect for mining.

Vein type uranium mineralization occurs in the crystalline rock of Ukrainian Shield. Occurrences such as Chervonoshahtarske and Mihaylivske in the Dneprovsky region are typical. Chervonoshahtarske occurrence are not economic  [3]. Mihaylivske occurrence not evaluated properly. Objects such a type have prospect, but need to be explored.

3. State and Prospect of Uranium Mining    

Nuclear  Energy  has  a  robust development in the world.  Ambitious program have countries such as China, India, USA and others, despite of this, production of natural uranium declines for last years, every year gap between production of natural uranium and consumption is grow and gain about 20 Kt of U each year. Rest uranium compensate from the inventory. Mentioned situation can bring  us to condition than uranium prices will rocket up in a moment.

Ukraine has a specific picture in this matter. As we already said Ukrainian Nuclear Energy supply 55% of electricity and require 2400 t of U per annum. Our mineral resources allow to produce around 4 -5 Kt of U every year for a long time. For 2400 t of U we have reliable local buyer.

Despite  of  this  Ukraine  since  independence  until present could not achieve any development in uranium industry.  We  have  attractive  deposits,  developed infrastructure and qualified  labor.  It  is  interest  to our deposits  from  international  investors,  but  before  all uranium  deposits  was a monopoly of government, which make very complicated any cooperation  in this area.  

Economic  situation  in  Ukraine  is  difficult,  state cannot  allowed  invest  in  developing  uranium mining and  critically  need  investments  from  domestic and

international private sector.     

Private  company  “Nuclear  Energy  Systems  of Ukraine” (NESU) LLC  founded  in 2015. The aim of the company is to explore and develop uranium deposits in Ukraine. On the first stage deposits sandstone type. “NESU” LLC obtained mining permits for exploration of Safonivske and Mihaylivske uranium deposits in Nikolayev region and Surske and Novogurivske deposits in Dnepropetrovsk region in 2018.  

At  present  “NESU”  LLC  made  exploration  on Safonivske  deposit.  Company carried out drilling program, exploration and hydro holes, downhole survey, core sampling and laboratory testing (Fig. 4). We calculated and made economic evaluation of ore reserves. “NESU” LLC made expertize of reserves and resources in the State Commission of Reserves of Ukraine, which is necessary for future development of deposit.  Same  time,  company  made  Mineral Resources  Estimate  according  to  JORC  code. Australian consulting company CSA Global made the Report.

Fig. 4 Drilling program 2019, Safonivske deposit.

“NESU”  LLC  plans  to  develop  all  four  deposit. Main process factory we will build on the Safonivske deposit site. Capacity of the factory 200 t of U per year.

Final  product  is  yellow  cake.  For  the  Surske, Novogurivske  and  Mihaylivske  deposits,  we  made geological prospecting projects. On the Surske deposit, NESU LLC plans to make ISL pilot field testing. To achieve this target we have designed mobile block complex. All equipment will installed in the 20 ft containers suitable for relocation to any site. Mined product will be delivered to Safonivske process factory or to “VostGOK”.

Mobile block complex will be used not only for determine technological parameters of the ore of perspective objects but for the mining the flanks of the

deposits or separate ore bogies.  

We need to note, that  developing deposits in Ukraine has similar difficulties as everywhere in the world. First, it is not sophisticated lows in the sphere of geology and mining, complicated procedure of obtaining the land allotment. Unfortunately, in Ukraine mining lows and land lows do not correlated properly. Nevertheless, our company overcome with these problems already.       

Until 2018 uranium mining industry was monopoly of  state,  but  now  this  monopoly  was  destroyed. “NESU” LLC made a brake through and became first private company  in Ukrainian history, who obtained mining permits for uranium and  who attract private investment into uranium geology and mining. This creates robust competition among state and private companies who have one target to supply Ukrainian NPPs by local uranium.    

In  the most  of world  uranium mining  is  a  private and JS companies, this is general situation, same time, state  has  to  have monitoring and control system of cause.   

Good example in such matter oil & gas industry, who is important for Ukrainian fuel-energy complex. Many years already, private companies produce most part of product and it became general practice.

4. Conclusion  

Economy of Ukraine and uranium mining  industry is  not  in  the  good  condition. Our uranium mining covered only 30% from Ukrainian NPP requirements. Nuclear Energy of Ukraine is 55% of the state electricity balance. Rest of uranium we are importing from abroad. Ukraine is in the top ten in the world for uranium resources. At present  time “VostGOK”  state company  is  mining  deposits  sodium-uraniumformation which  have  high  cost  and  not  competitive on  the  world  market.  To  improve  the  situation  it necessary  to  involve  in  to  production  deposits sandstone  (hydrogen)  type,  which  discovered  in  the Paleogene  sediments  in the area of Dniprovsky uranium ore region.   

State Economy cannot solve the problem of supply Nuclear Energy Industry by domestic uranium. Only private investments, local ore foreign, can speed up development of Ukrainian uranium mining.

Company  “Nuclear  Energy  Systems  of  Ukraine” LLC is open for cooperation with any partners for the developing  and mining  uranium deposits. “NESU” LLC plans to explore not only sandstone type but deposits sodium-uranium formation with large resources as well. It known few tens of deposits sandstone and albitite types, which are not involved into development in Ukraine. Most important we have in Ukraine attractive domestic market with high prices, reliable and stable buyer.

References

[1]  О.  А.  Lysеnkо  and  А.  Ch.  Bаkаrzhіev,  Condition  and prospects of Uranium mineral base of Ukraine, Міnеrаlnі Rеsursy Ukraine (2019) (1) 11-17. (in Ukrainian)

[2]  D. S. Hurskyi, K. E. Yesypchuk, and V.  I. Kalinin et al., Metal and nonmetal minerals of Ukraine, Volume 1, Metal Minerals, Kyiv–Lviv: Vyd-vo “Tsentr Yevropy”, 2006, p. 739. (in Ukrainian)

[3]  А. Ch. Bаkаrzhіev and О. А. Lysеnkо, History of creation uranium mineral base in Ukraine,  Міnеrаlnі  Rеsursy Ukraine (2018) (1) 4-14. (in Ukrainian)