Radioactive minerals into economic circulation

Uranium is widespread in the earth's crust, oceans and rivers, and is 500 times more abundant than gold and 40 times more abundant than silver. The human body contains 90-150 micrograms of uranium. Uranium is mainly used in the energy sector and processed and used in many socio-economic sectors.

Uranium does not exist in nature alone. Uranium ore is mined from nature and chemically processed in a processing plant to produce uranium yellowcake. Uranium ore with a grade of 0.1 percent or less (approximately 200 grams of uranium per ton of ore) is processed at the processing plant to produce about 80 percent uranium (800 kg/ton) of oxide (U3O8), or “yellow cake” as we call it. Currently, uranium is mined in three main ways: open-pit mining, underground mining, and underwater mining.

In Mongolia, radioactive minerals research began in late 1940 with the introduction of thematic geological surveys in the east and southeast. According to the agreement between the People's Republic of Mongolia and the Soviet Union’s Government, assorted uranium geological research was conducted in the eastern part of Mongolia, funded by the Mongolian geological- mapping expedition of the Soviet Union’s Ministry of Geology, research institutes and other relevant organizations in 1970. A wide range of geological research and exploration lasted until 1990, covering 70 percent of Mongolian territory.   

As a result of the research conducted many years, the Mineral Resources Commission of the Soviet Union discussed and registered about 100 occurrences, about 1000 mineralized points, 6 deposits (Dornod, Gurvanbulag, Mardai, Nemer, Ulaan, Narst). A total of 1.4 million tonnes of uranium abstract resources were estimated, therefore, 490-thousand-tonnes of ore from the Dornod deposit was exported to the Soviet Union during 1989-1995.   

As of today, there are 13 uranium deposits in Mongolia /Dornod, Ulaan, Kharaat, Khairkhan, Gurvanbulag (central ore body), DUlaan-Uul, Gurvansaikhan, Ulziit, Zoovch-Ovoo, Nemer, Mardai river, Enger ar, Dald/ with 192 thousand tons of geological resources have been identified and registered in the State Reserve Fund.

Mongolian Parliament ratified the “Policy of the Government on Radioactive Minerals and Nuclear Energy”, by Resolution № 45 in 2009. It includes conditions on classifying uranium deposits as strategically significant deposits in the state policy, increasing approved radioactive mineral resources, not exporting uranium in the form of ore, exporting uranium products for peaceful purpose, and requirements, conditions of the uranium mining for strategic investors in support for the Mongolian development.            

The Nuclear Energy Law, adopted in 2009, is a fundamental document that governs the use of radioactive minerals and the peaceful use of nuclear energy and the protection of the population and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation.

As of December 2020, 7 radioactive mineral mining licenses and 6 exploration licenses of 7 companies have been registered in a total of 187.2 thousand hectares in 13 soums of 4 aimags. It accounts for 0.12 percent of Mongolia's total territory, a 20-fold decrease from the 2009 re-registration of licenses.

“Badrakh Energy” LLC, a joint venture with the investment of the French Republic, “Gurvansaikhan” LLC, a joint venture with the Czech Republic, and “Khunbuu” and “Shin Shin” LLC, a joint venture with the People's Republic of China’s investment, hold licenses for the exploitation of radioactive minerals and “Badrakh Energy” LLC's “Zuovch-Ovoo” project is being prepared for mining.

According to international organizations, the demand for radioactive minerals is expected to change in the future due to global nuclear energy development trends, energy security, mineral shortages and climate change.