Salamanca project is an open-pit uranium project under construction towards the west of Madrid, Spain. Berkeley Energia is developing the project, which is considered as Europe’s only major uranium mine.
The Salamanca project is estimated to produce 4.4 million pounds (Mlbs) of uranium concentrate a year for 14 years.
Definitive feasibility study of the project was completed in July 2016 and the initial construction works were commenced in July 2017. The project is expected to create approximately 450 direct and more than 2,000 indirect jobs in the region.
The Salamanca uranium project received its initial government development approvals in 2013, but faced opposition from the Nuclear Spanish Safety Council in March 2014.
Stop Uranio, an environmental NGO, also protested against the project development.
Salamanca uranium project location, geology, and mineralization
The Salamanca uranium project comprises Retortillo (including the Santidad satellite deposit), Zona 7, and Alameda near-surface deposits. The Zona 7 deposit is the biggest of the three deposits and comprises a sequence of meta-sediments covered by a conglomerate unit.
Uranium mineralization is contained within the Lower Cambrian meta-sediments and forms as a sub-horizontal to shallowly dipping layer.
Mineralization at the project is hosted in veins, stockwork, and disseminated in joint/fracture filling associated with brittle deformation. Most of the mineralization is hosted within partially weathered and unweathered meta-sediments.
Salamanca uranium project reserves
The proven and probable reserves of Salamanca uranium project were estimated to be 60.7Mt at a cut-off grade of 408ppm Triuranium octoxide (U3O8), as of 2016. The mine is estimated to contain 54.6Mlbs of U3O8.
Mining and ore processing at Salamanca uranium project
Conventional open-pit mining methods including drilling and blasting followed by trucking and shoveling will be used at Salamanca.
Mining fleet of the project will include 125t backhoe hydraulic excavators and 100t dump haul trucks.
The initial mine plan includes sequential mining of Retortillo and Zona 7 deposits, followed by ore processing at the same processing facility. Alameda ore will be processed on-site and transported 50km by road to the Retortillo plant for final processing.
The ore will be crushed, screened, agglomerated, stacked, and mixed with a dilute sulphuric acid solution, which will be further treated to precipitate the uranium and calcined to produce U3O8 concentrate. The final concentrate will be drummed and sold to customers.
The ore at Zona 7 will be passed through the primary crusher, manufactured by Sandvik Group. The crushed material will be conveyed to the processing plant located at Retortillo for secondary and tertiary crushing.
Uranium from Alameda heap leach pregnant liquor solution will be loaded into a resin and sent to the Retortillo plant for extraction and purification.
Infrastructure facilities at Salamanca uranium project
Access to the project is through the existing major roads and railways. The mine is also located in close proximity to the sea port of Santander and Salamanca and Madrid airports.
Water will be sourced from the nearby water bodies and from the onsite pit dewatering boreholes.
Power required for the mining activities will be sourced from the national grid, while a new 45kV, 13km-long power line will be constructed to connect the Alameda deposit.
In addition to investing €250m ($279m) in the Salamanca project, Berkeley Energia raised $30m in a private placement of shares to fund the mine construction in July 2016.
The sovereign wealth fund of the Sultanate of Oman reached an investment agreement with Berkeley Energia, in August 2017, to fund $120m for the project and become a long-term strategic investor in the company.
Berkeley Energia signed a five year off-take agreement with Interalloys Trading, in September 2016, for the sale of uranium concentrate from the project. Berkeley agreed to sell 2Mlbs of uranium, with an option to extend the same to 3Mlbs.
MDM Engineering, a subsidiary of Amec Foster Wheeler, was engaged to conduct front-end engineering and design (FEED) for the Salamanca mine, in December 2017.
AECOM provided environmental management, radiological protection, and permitting services for the DFS.
Bara Consulting prepared the JORC-compliant ore reserve estimate for the Salamanca project and was involved in preparing the mine dump and pit backfilling designs. FRASA and INGEMISA were awarded the contract for hydrogeological studies, as part of the DFS.
Randolph Scheffel designed the metallurgical test works, while Mintek conducted the same.
Iberdrola was involved in radiological protection studies for the Salamanca uranium project, while March JLT worked on the insurance cost estimation studies as part of the DFS.