When it comes to mining method and approach employed for any particular uranium deposit, the decision is governed by the nature of the orebody, safety, environmental and economicconsiderations. Over the last 60 years, developments have changed uranium mining to include production methods which had previously been absent from the industry landscape. In 2009, the breakdown of reported production was as follows: conventional underground and open pit mining at 57 percent; in situ leach (ISL) mining at 36 percent and by-product mining at 7 percent. Investors will note that Olympic Dam was classified as by-product rather than in underground category for reporting purposes.
Many will recognize the Olympic Dammulti-mineral ore body controlled by BHP Billiton(NYSE: BHP) as the world’s largest resource of low-grade uranium,accounting for about 66 percent of Australia’s reserves plus resources. Uranium occurs with copper,gold, silver, and rare earth elements in a large hematite-rich granite breccia complex overlain by flat-lying sedimentary rocks.