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International Conference 2011

Uranium, Mining and Hydrogeology VI

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Uranium Mining and Hydrogeoloy VI

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Chair Hydrogeology
Institute for Geology


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Conclusions UMH III

Uranium is a radioactive element, and a heavy metal, occurring naturally in ground and surface waters. Although uranium levels are often raised in granites and gneiss, ground water from such host rocks usually shows low to intermediate uranium concentrations, whereas some ground waters derived from sandstone and carbonate aquifers show naturally elevated uranium concentrations up to several hundred mg per litre. In other situations surface waters may have anthropogenically increased uranium concentrations due to the intensive use of phosphate fertilizers in agricultural areas or mining and milling activities in mining areas. Saxony and Thuringia, two states of the reunified Germany, are areas where past uranium mining activities have impacted the environment more severely than probably any other part of the world. Thus, the federal government of Germany has allocated 7.5 billion € for the rehabilitation work, an action without precedent in mining history.

In September 2002, more than 350 international scientists and engineers from 37 countries, working in the fields of uranium mining, hydrogeology, rehabilitation of mining and milling sites and environmental management, assembled in Freiberg to attend the Third International Conference on Uranium Mining and Hydrogeology (UMH III). The meeting was held jointly with the International Mine Water Association (IMWA) Symposium 2002 and the 2002 meeting of the Uranium Mining and Remediation Exchange Group (UMREG).

The conference focussed on impacts on groundwater from radionuclide emission, analytical speciation techniques for uranium and related elements, microbiology and phyto-remediation of uranium contaminated sites, geochemical and reactive transport modelling including modelling of uncertainties, model calibration, and parameter identification. Other issues debated included case studies, e.g. active and abandoned uranium mines, uranium mine flooding, uranium tailings management, long term storage of radioactive waste, risk assessment studies, passive in-situ treatment techniques, and constructed wetlands. Within the IMWA Symposium the topics discussed included underground and surface mines, mine closure and reclamation, and environmental impact of mining activity.

After the initial welcome, the conference was opened by Prof. Kinze, President of the Saxonian State Authority for Environment and Geology, who focussed his remarks on allowable concentrations for uranium in drinking water. In particular he noted that in recent discussions standards had varied in the range from 1 to 30 μ g/L. One hundred and twenty papers were presented in three parallel sessions from Monday to Wednesday, September 16 to 18. During a poster session, with more than 60 contributions, new contacts were established and upcoming projects discussed. On Wednesday afternoon three workshops were organized, each with 30 to 40 participants, to discuss the themes: “Mine Water Legislation”, “Long-term Stability of Remediation Measures”, and “Thermodynamic modelling”.

The conference concluded with four field trips over two days. The trips were to the Ronneburg uranium mine and the Crossen tailing; heap remediation sites at Pöhla and Schlema; the uranium insitu leaching mine at Königstein (Saxonian Swiss); and Lignite Open Pit Mining.

The final report on the conference can be download here (60 kByte)


© A. Berger, 17.05.2010
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