Monday, February 06, 2006

Hooray, there’s uranium in our water!

It’s a funny world. ABC news online last week reported on an ‘exciting’ accidental discovery of high levels of uranium in groundwater in Western Australia’s wheatbelt and two days later reported that high levels of uranium in water near Alice Springs is suspected of contributing to kidney damage in the local Aboriginal community:

A group carrying out research into salinity in the Western Australian wheatbelt has stumbled on unusually high concentrations of uranium in the local groundwater.

The Cooperative Research Centre for Landscape Environments and Mineral Exploration made the discovery and has now received financial support from two hopeful junior exploration companies. The centre's chief executive officer, Steve Rogers, says while uranium mining remains under a State Government ban, mining companies are still keen for clues to potential deposits.

Dr Rogers says apart from the mining potential, the find has broken new scientific ground."We compared them to a database from the United States Geological Survey and the concentrations we see are higher than anything that anybody has ever seen in the United States, remembering that these are concentrations of uranium that are actually dissolved in water," he said. "So this is very exciting from our point of view."


My questions:

  • The Cooperative Research Centre for Landscape Environments and Mineral Exploration is established, regulated and mostly funded by government. Why is public money going towards exploring for a mineral that would be illegal to mine?
  • How is finding high levels of a highly toxic radioactive substance in water in an important agricultural area that produces a lot of our food ‘exciting’? Particularly when that substance is suspected of causing renal damage when dissolved in water sources.
  • What does the excitement and funding from exploration companies say about the attitude of the mining companies and government bodies that make up the CRC to Australia’s laws? Is their attitude that those laws can be changed to suit them if the right pressure is applied?

5 comments:

Peter said...

This is an interesting story, and I like the questions you pose. I think I'll link to it.

pedaller said...

"Why is public money going towards exploring for a mineral that would be illegal to mine?"
I don't know the legal issues involved, but if you can precipitate and then coagulate/flocculate the uranium compound out of the water and then extract the metallic uranium, you have a saleable, exportable source of uranium that wasn't mined, don't you?

David Jeffery said...

Thanks Peter.

Pedaller, I don't know if extracting uranium from the water would be legal but it certainly wouldn't be commercially viable. The 'excitement' is because the high concentrations indicate that there's probably a big deposit in the ground nearby.

pedaller said...

Viability is determined by the price you can sell it for, if the price is high enough then extraction becomes economically feasible (just like re-working old mine tailings)

Anonymous said...

Nice colors for the template

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Regards,
Gerald E.
http://health-network.servehttp.com/health/
pesticdes in packaged drinking water