Development Prospects

Uzbekistan’s Uranium Sector


     Today, under the leadership of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Sh. Mirziyoyev the country is undergoing major reforms in all spheres, including in the mining, metallurgical and geological sectors.
     The Navoi Mining and Metallurgical Plant (NMMP) is the only uranium mining enterprise in Uzbekistan that produces finished products for export in the form of triuranium octoxide.
     Since 1994, all uranium mining in the NMMP is carried out only by underground leaching (UL) through systems of geotechnological wells constructed on the earth’s surface. This technology allowed increasing the resources portfolio by involving in the development of reserves of poor ores of sandstone deposits, the processing of which was previously considered unprofitable.
     In accordance with the requirements of the time, the NMMP implements the policy of technical re-equipment aimed at improving the quality and quantity of its products while reducing costs.
     Currently, 6 UL geotechnological mines are involved in the extraction of natural uranium. The mineral resource base of uranium production consists of 21 deposits and 7 promising areas. The auxiliary facilities of the NMMP uranium enterprises include the Northern Mining Administration’s sulfuric acid plant, as well as the Southern Mining Administration’s pipe production shop, which provide the NMMP units with sulfuric acid and pipe products.
     The uranium-containing product obtained at the mines is processed at GMZ-1 to the finished product (triuranium octoxide) and shipped for export.
     The growth in the twentieth century of the national economy’s demand for raw materials for nuclear power plants brought the need to involve in the development of poor and hard-lying mining deposits that were not of industrial interest due to the lack of technically and economically feasible traditional underground and open-pit mining methods.
     The main task of the newly created plant was development of a large uranium deposit, discovered in 1952 and located in the hot sands of Central Kyzylkum near three wells of the ancient caravan route, from which it received the name Uchkuduk.
     Under the Northern Mining Administration established in those years, large-scale work was launched aimed at developing a new, less expensive method of extracting such deposits, called the method of underground borehole leaching (UL).
     The pilot-industrial works carried out with excellent technological and technical-economic indicators in 1965-1967 allowed to start the industrial development of the Uchkuduk deposit by the method of underground leaching.
     Since the closure of many quarries and mines for the extraction of uranium ore in the 90s of the last century, the geotechnological mine of the Northern Mining Administration remains as the only supplier of uranium products from Uchkuduk.
     The main division of the Navoi Mining and Metallurgical Plant for extraction of uranium -the Mining Administration # 5 (MA-5) – celebrates its 50th anniversary on February 1, 2021. Over the years, the MA-5 has gained a strong position in our country as a leading enterprise for extraction of natural uranium and production of ammonium perrenate from underground leaching solutions. Currently, in the total production volume of the NMMP, 78.5% of the uranium production and 100% of the production of ammonium perrenate accounts for this mining administration.
     Even though fifty years is a small period by historical standards, one can tell a lot about the creation of a large enterprise in the middle of the desert in off-road and waterless conditions, its position in the industry, the formation of a whole army of professional uranium miners. Today, the Mining Administration is a modern industrial enterprise that includes mining and processing complexes, auxiliary units that fully cover all the needs of production, developed infrastructure and social facilities. More than 4.5 thousand people work in 18 structural divisions located in Navoi, Bukhara and Samarkand regions of Uzbekistan.
     The products of the Mining Administration is completely export-oriented and it is safe to say that in the last twenty years the company has reached a new stage of its development. In the conditions of unstable global market conditions, in order to increase the efficiency of uranium mining operations, the mining administration has completely switched from the airlift method of pumping productive solutions to the introduction of electric submersible pumping units. As a result, the specific energy consumption for pumping out productive solutions was reduced by almost 2 times. The introduction of acidification of the ore horizon by pumping compressed atmospheric air and gaseous technical oxygen allowed effectively involve uranium deposits with high carbonate content and ore deposits up to 500 meters in development, which reduced the specific consumption of sulfuric acid during acidification in carbonate areas.
Otabek RUZIEV, Chief of Geotechnology Department, NMMP
You can read the whole article in the printed version of the magazine.


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