Radioactivity and the Mining Industry

By: howie

Radioactive materials are those materials that come from sources that emit different types of radiation.

These materials are often used for various purposes ranging from power generation and military application to medical analysis and treatment, as well as different applications in science and even in common everyday products.

Experts would tell us that radioactivity is a proof that matter decays before it transforms into an improved energetic condition. As the materials decay, radiation is emitted and eventually disintegrates in its entirety to become harmless. Some materials will only require a few seconds to complete this process but there are also those that will take years - or even millions of years.

Types of radiation that have a direct impact to the health of humans include Alpha, Beta, Gamma decay, and Neutron. While they have various useful functions, they also pose some form of risks to human health.

For the most part, it is not possible to treat radioactive materials. They can only be completely risk-free once they have completed the decaying process. Therefore, proper storage and waste disposal are extremely crucial. In fact, storing high level wastes for long-term basis can be very complicated and is considered a controversial matter. Low level wastes, on the other hand, are materials that only have minor decaying activities thatís why they are not as dangerous.

With all these things in mind, it is then of high importance that those working in the industry of uranium mining understand their roles and responsibilities. Safety standards should be properly implemented and followed at all times to reduce all forms of risks.

In mined ore, uranium concentrations are usually only below 0.1 to 0.2%. This means about 99% of it the material is eliminated after successfully completing the entire process. After mining the ore, it will then be milled in order to manufacture valuable uranium concentrate. The ore is grinded during the milling process and then necessary chemicals are added. Again, the goal is not merely to produce uranium but to get rid of toxic materials such as lead and arsenic.

This is the part where it gets tricky because leftover sludge usually has high radioactive content, albeit with low levels thatís why it is not as potentially hazardous. Still, the large quantities can pose a threat thatís why it has to be disposed in the right way. Land and water in the area may have minor radiation content thatís why rivers and lakes can be contaminated.

As stated earlier, safety measures should be promoted in the mining site. Proper technology should be utilized and standards implemented by the government should be strictly followed. This is necessary not only to provide protection for all the mining workers but also for the benefit of the environment and the local community. Potential health and environmental risks are effectively prevented that way. Besides, any radiation exposure can be hazardous. High level exposure can lead to death while lower levels may cause nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and blood chemistry changes among many others.

For these reasons and more, mining companies really need to comply with the regulations set by government offices and other concerned organizations.

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Howard Smith is a corporate consultant, focusing on fund administration, debt collection, and wealth management. He likes to share his knowledge about business and write about corporate solutions, sustainability and management. is filled with a lot of useful information about mining.

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