Uraninite is mined/processed more than any other uranium mineral for the production of uranium based compounds that are subsequently used to produce nuclear fuel. This review article provides a concise account of the available literature on one of the major processes involved in processing uraninite bearing ores, acid leaching. Improvements in the processes used to leach uraninite are required in order to ensure efficiency in the processing of lower grade uraninite bearing ores with minimal environmental impacts. This in turn requires improvements in our understanding of uraninite leaching. The main topics covered in this review include: uraninite structure, composition and low temperature geochemistry; the chemistry of uraninite leaching; key factors that influence uraninite leaching; and leach process technologies. The research that has been reviewed clearly establishes the influence of parameters such as temperature, acid concentration and particle size. The influence of other parameters however, such as solution Fe3 + to Fe2 + ratio (solution Eh), total Fe concentration, foreign ions present in the leach slurry and uraninite composition is yet to be established. Based on the literature available on the aforementioned factors the chemistry/processes involved in uraninite leaching are quite complex and require significant further studies. From the literature reviewed it is clear that variations in mineral chemistry in individual ore types across multiple deposits also make it essential that before any extraction process is considered, detailed ore characterisation studies of pre- and post-leach residues are of vital importance in order to fully understand the interrelationship between chemistry, mineralogy (ore and gangue), mineral liberation and potential leaching behaviour of uranium.
- Acid leaching