Today, one of the most important things that we must always keep in the forefront of our minds in any kind of decision is the environmental consequences of our actions. Weighing out the pros and cons of many scenarios can help us make smarter decisions about the way our actions impact the earth, and by being thoughtful, we can hope to have a positive impact on the earth in the long term. However, this does not always happen. Indeed, some people choose a less than positive method to perform a task when a more environmentally cautious method can be chosen. This is often the case with uranium mining companies, which is why you must be careful to support uranium mining companies that put environmental concerns over profit. There are a lot of ways that uranium mining can be performed, and identifying the health and environmental impacts of each of these methods can help you know what to consider when looking into uranium mining companies. Instead of just thinking about the energy that will be produced from a material, consider the ways that the material is excavated. Uranium stocks should be thoughtfully mined; here are a few of the uranium mining techniques used and their environmental impacts:
1. Open Pit Mining: It is easy to see from the name of this technique that it is not the most environmentally responsible mining decision that a person could make. In open pit mining, the uranium ore is typically located near the surface, so blasting and drilling ensues to retrieve the material. Workers are protected with this method through enclosed cabins, but airborne dust that is radioactive flies everywhere and a lot of water must be used to suppress the dust. This method is not a great option if you are considering the environment and the waste of water.
2. Underground Uranium Mining: This method is much less of an eyesore, involving mines that are much like the mines created for just about any kind of mineral or metal. This involves shafts and tunnels to retrieve the uranium and while it might seem like a better environmental alternative, the health impacts on the workers within the mines are problematic. These workers are exposed to the highest level of radioactive gases in a small, enclosed area. For this reasons, underground uranium mining is often rejected for other methods.
3. Heap Leaching: With this type of uranium ore mining, chemicals are used to extract the economically viable portion of the uranium ore directly from the earth. As one can imagine, this method only works if the uranium ore deposits are close to the surface, as is the case with oxide ore deposits that are weathered over time and therefore closer to the surface. The leaching agent tends to be a variant of sulfuric acid. This kind of process, however, is terrifying when considering the ground water implications, so it must be closely monitored.
4. In-situ leaching: This method seems to be one of the more positive options environmentally, as it involves leaching the ore where it is in the earth, preventing the problems of drilling as well as the issues of surface disturbance. This method should be performed carefully with ground water in mind as well.