The extraction of uranium ore through the process of uranium mining is something that is being done by quite a number of countries today. Countries like Canada, the United States, Australia, China, Kazakhstan, and several others regularly mine uranium from uranium deposits in their lands and use it for certain purposes. Uranium has two uses with countries these days and is to build nuclear weapons or to use it to fuel nuclear power plants and generate lots of energy for the country. Uranium has proven to be useful especially in the latter and this just prompts these countries to seek out more uranium deposits to mine.
Now the uranium being mined in uranium deposits isn’t uranium that can already be used. When mining in uranium deposits, what is produced from the Earth is uranium ore which is the uranium itself mixed in with other different material and minerals. In order to get the usable uranium, the ore must be processed so that the usable uranium can be separated from the other minerals. Now uranium ore is found underground and it can either be in a depth of less than 400 ft in which case an open pit mine is used to get the ore or in can be deeper than 400 ft wherein an underground uranium mine would be the more viable option for getting the ore.
Now during the mining of uranium there are certain hazards which can put the health of the miners at risk. One of the most particular risks associated with uranium mining is the exposure to radon gas. Now radon is a gaseous element which is the result of uranium undergoing decay. Exposure to radon gas can have a negative effect on lungs. In fact, radon gas exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer and complications just under tobacco smoke.
Now with open pit mines, exposure to radon gas is actually limited since the mine is typically an “open” pit and the miners have fresh air to breath. In addition, they can stay in their enclosed cabins whenever there is no work that needs to be done in order to be safe from the radon gas. The problem of radon gas exposure is really a problem with underground uranium mines. This is because the miners have to go through a series of tunnels and shafts underground in order to get to the uranium ore. This means that they won’t have any fresh air and exposure to the radon inside is prolonged considering the time it takes to go in and out of the mine.
Now it has become a federal regulation that mining companies should first test the radon in the air inside the mine due to how common radon is. In addition, it is required that the mine operators should have a record of how long the miners stay in the mine and the time of their exposure to the radon gas inside. As much as possible mining companies should limit the exposure of radon to their miners during uranium mining projects.