Environment & Safety
The Inkai operation has an excellent safety record. The operation has a management system to identify, document and address risks and engage all workers and managers in development of a strong safety culture. The safety management system is certified to the international OHSAS:18001 standard and is focused on driving continual improvement in safety performance of employees and contractors.
Radiation risks are effectively managed at Inkai through a formal radiation protection program and dedicated personnel who ensure that doses to workers are as low as reasonably achievable. The program ensures that radiation protection is considered in the physical design of all facilities and operating procedures. It also provides for systematic monitoring of radiation in work areas and tracking the exposures of individual workers using a combination of monitoring devices and health testing. Radiation exposures at Inkai are far below the regulated limits.
Environmental protection at Inkai is managed through an ISO 14001-certified environmental management system. The system provides for systematic identification and mitigation of environmental risks and reduction and effective management of waste. Inkai uses the in situ recovery (ISR) mining method which produces no tailings or waste rock and involves minimal surface disturbance. Uranium is extracted from underground by pumping a mild acid solution into the ore zone. The uranium is freed from a sandstone formation and pumped to the surface for processing.
Monitor wells are installed around the ore zones to allow testing of groundwater quality around the ore zones.
The situ recovery (ISR) mining method employed at Inkai produces no tailings or waste rock. Water used in the process is recycled. Plastic, cardboard, scrap metal and other waste materials are sent for recycling to external companies.
Detailed plans are being developed to provide for decommissioning of the Inkai mine. Once operations are complete in a wellfield, the brackish groundwater in the deep sandstone aquifer being mined recovers by natural attenuation. All piping and other infrastructure is removed and surface lands are restored to their original state.
All new mining developments and significant changes to existing operations are subject to environmental review and licensing by Kazakh regulatory authorities.
The Inkai operation is overseen by a number of Kazakh regulatory authorities, including the Atomic Energy Committee, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection.