In both the HR and IR/PR fields it is important to have a solid understanding of the business you are working in. Understanding what the line staff is doing to bring in the revenue and profits is critical in helping you do your job better when communicating and your day to day dealings with your fellow employees. With that in mind, I’m starting a series that explores and explains the business my company is in.
My company is a pre-production junior uranium mining company currently building an in-situ uranium mine in south central Wyoming. I am going to start this series of “Know Your Business” at the beginning by discussing what Uranium is.
Uranium was first discovered in 1789 by German Chemist, Martin Klaproth, in the mineral pitchblende aka Uraninite. He named his discovery after the planet Uranus, which had been discovered by astronomers eight years earlier in 1781. Uranium is one of the heaviest naturally occurring elements on the periodic table – represented by the symbol U – and occurs in slightly different forms known as isotopes. Natural uranium occurs as mostly two isotopes: uranium-238 (U-238) and uranium-235 (U-235). U-238 accounts for nearly 99% of the Earth’s uranium while U-235 accounts for only about 0.7%.
All radioactive isotopes decay – that’s what makes them radioactive. U-238 decays at a half-life of 4500 million years which means it is barely radioactive and U-235 decays at a half-life of 704 million years. Geologists theorize that the decay of uranium in the Earth’s mantle is is the main source of heat that keeps the outer core liquid which drives plate tectonics.
There is actually quite a bit of uranium in the Earth’s crust – its 40 times more abundant than silver and is more plentiful that antimony, tin, cadmium, and mercury. There is also nearly 4 billion tons of uranium in the Earth’s oceans.
As far as the actual origins of uranium, I will quote an article written in 2003 by Edgar B. Heylmun, PhD:
It has been demonstrated that most uranium has been derived from the alteration of volcanic ash or tuff. Volcanic ash and tuff are unstable under atmospheric conditions and will eventually alter to clay or mudstone. Upon alteration, uranium will be released into the groundwater. The uraniferous solutions will circulate through permeable beds until a reductant is encountered. Reductants include disseminated pyrite and organic material like plant remains or hydrocarbons, which give off hydrogen sulfide gas as they decompose. Hydrogen sulfide gas is a strong reductant, so uranium will precipitate from solution upon encountering the reducing conditions created by H2S gas. Sometimes, wood, peat, lignite, and hydrocarbons are completely replaced by black uranium oxides, usually as uraninite (pitchblende) or coffinite. Organic trash pockets in sandstone can result in the formation of rich ore bodies.
Well, that’s it for uranium. I mentioned the first three parts of the “Know Your Business” series in the intro post and there will be others following those that will discuss radioactivity, nuclear politics, nuclear in the media, mining, the nuclear fuel cycle, etc.
References for this post:
- ICMJ’s Prospecting and Mining Journal – October 2003 – Roll Front Uranium Deposits – Edgar B. Heylmun, PhD
- World Nuclear Association – December 2012 – “What is Uranium? How Does it Work”
- Wikipedia – Uranium
This is re-posted from www.RichBoberg.com