India reveals ‘world’s biggest’ uranium discovery

2011-07-19 10:56

New Delhi – A new mine in south India could contain the largest reserves of uranium in the world.

The Tumalapalli mine in Andhra Pradesh state could provide up to 150 000 tons of uranium, Srikumar Banerjee, the secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy, told reporters after a four-year survey of the site was completed.

“It’s confirmed that the mine has 49 000 tons of ore, and there are indications that the total quantity could be three times that amount,” Banerjee was quoted as saying in The Times of India.

“If that be the case, it will become the largest uranium mine in the world,” he said.

Previous estimates suggested that only about 15 000 tons of uranium would be produced at the mine, which is due to start operating by the end of the year.

SK Malhotra, the spokesperson for the Department of Atomic Energy, said that experts at the Tumalapalli mine were “quite hopeful” that the eventual volume from the mine would reach 150 000 tons.

But he warned that “it is not high-grade uranium, it is low-grade uranium. We have not found any high-grade uranium in India to match that found in Australia”.

Major exporter Australia has so far rebuffed Indian requests for supplies of the heavy metal, which is refined into nuclear fuel, because the country has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The government has been seeking new supplies of uranium worldwide and has concluded supply deals with France, Kazakhstan and Russia among others.

“The new findings would only augment the indigenous supply of uranium. There would still be a significant gap. We would still have to import,” Banerjee was quoted as saying by The Hindu newspaper.

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