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Kazakhstan

Created in 1997 by Orano and Kazatomprom in Kazakhstan, KATCO operates the world’s largest in situ uranium mine. This in situ recovery technology (ISR) makes it possible to extract low-content uranium economically and with little environmental impact.

KATCO, the world's N°1 producer of ISR uranium

• KATCO shareholders: Orano (51%) and Kazatomprom (49%) Kazakhstani national operator.
• Annual production capacity: 4,000 tons.
• Over 36,000 tons of uranium produced since 2006.
• KATCO’s production accounts for 15% of Kazakhstan’s annual uranium production and 7% of global production.
• In 2017, an average content of 0.8 kg of uranium per ton of ore.

The only mining site capable of producing 4,000 tons of ISR uranium per year

Established in 1996 to mine the deposits of Muyunkum and Tortkuduk in South Kazakhstan, KATCO draws on the international experience and expertise of Orano and Kazatomprom to develop its production activities.

Steady production secured for the next 20 years
In 2009, the KATCO mine became the world's largest SRI mine. A total of 36,000 tonnes of uranium have been produced since production began in 2006.

In April 2017, Orano and Kazatomprom strengthened their historic cooperation. By signing a strategic agreement in such areas as the development of the South Tortkuduk project (located close to two current fields), KATCO is perpetuating its production for the next two decades.

South Tortkuduk Project
In January 2018, KATCO was granted a mining license for a new plot of the Muyunkum uranium field. KATCO geologists discovered this plot with high resource potential a few years ago, close to two mining sites already operated by the company. These new reserves recorded in 2017 will cover more than 10 years of production for KATCO. The South Tortkuduk Project team is continuing development work on the deposit to begin commissioning and production at the site by 2020.

A recovery method adapted to low-grade deposits

Recovering uranium without digging
The in situ recovery principle consists of injecting a leaching solution through shafts into the uranium deposit. The solution (dilute acid and water) dissolves the uranium as it passes through the deposit and is pumped to the surface. The solution loaded with uranium is then transported by pipeline to the plant where the uranium is extracted and fixed on ion exchange resins. The solutions are enriched with acid and re-injected into the wells, continuing the closed circuit process.

ISR technology has evolved with tight operational and regulatory controls. It causes little surface disturbance, does not generate tailings or waste rock, and requires less investment than conventional mining. However, this technique is put into use only when the ore is located between impervious soil layers such as in Kazakhstan and Mongolia.

KATCO, a responsible mining company

  • Edition 2018 of the corporate social responsibility of KATCO (english version)
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  • Edition 2018 of the corporate social responsibility of KATCO (russian version)
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  • Edition 2018 of the corporate social responsibility of KATCO (kazakh version)
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Nearly 50% of the world’s uranium deposits are mined using ISR techniques, according to the World Nuclear Association, WNA.
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