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NATURALLY RADIOACTIVE MINERALS

Among the representative list of minerals that are radioactive, a number are listed below. These are concentrated enough to be of interest to mining companies. In addition, many areas have dissolved radioactive salts in sub-surface water greatly in excess of environmentally safe limits and must be treated and filtered to specifically remove this hazard.

In some areas of the USA, mining companies use chemical solutions pumped into the ground to wash out uranium salts. In the USA alone, a quarter of the drinking  water supplies contain 2000 picocuries per liter of radon gas. Five percent of the domestic water supplies have radon levels above 10,000 picocuries per liter. Water pumped from private wells should be tested for radioactivity.

In the process of oil exploration and recovery, uranium and radium bearing formations are drilled through and the fluids used to cool and lubricate the drilling bits can be contaminated. This drilling fluid or "mud" often was left to dry in an open pit. Insoluble radium compounds can build up or "plate up" to alarming levels on the pipe.

Over three billion cubic feet of mine wastes from the uranium and thorium extraction still await proper disposal. These waste heaps remain about 85% as radioactive as the original ore from the radioactive breakdown products of uranium and thorium. Thousands of tons of ore were transported for processing to areas near major population centers, like Niagara, NY, Salt Lake City, Utah, Cincinnati, Ohio and Chicago, IL. In some cases, the mining wastes were used to make concrete for buildings and roads. These m ounds of milling wastes are persistent sources of soluble radium salts and radon gas.

Some radioactive minerals collected are:

Autunite, Ca(UO2)2 (PO4)2 . 10-12 H2O, Hydrated calcium uranium phosphate formed as mixed yellow or green tetragonal platelets that fluoresce bright yellow-green. Cornwall,England; Mount Pine, North Carolina; Western Colorado; Marysville, Utah; near Spokane, Washington. Mount Painter, Australia; Autun, France. Novacekite, Mg rich form of Autunite.

Brannerite, UTi2O6, A uranium titanate with rare earth and iron oxides varying the composition in rounded black or brown pebbles and triclinic crystals. Found in W. Custer County, Idaho; Elliot Lake District, Ontario,Canada; Transvaal, S. Africa.

 Carnotite, K2(UO2)2(VO4)2 . 3H2O, A potassium uranium vanadate in sandy or powdery bright yellow masses. Found in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Utah in USA; Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada; Radium Hill, Australia; Katanga; Mexico.

Monazite, (Ce, La, Yt, Th)(PO4), Mixed rare earth and thorium phosphates in white, yellow to brown monoclinic prismatic waxy looking crystals. Found in granite and gneiss worldwide.

Thorianite, ThO2, Thorium dioxide in dark grey to black cubic crystals. Found in Easton, Pennsyvania; Betroka, Madagascar; Balagoda, Sri Lanka. Uranothoranite is a thorium rich mineral found with thoranite.

Thorite, ThSiO4, Thorium silicate in yellow-brown to black, tetragonal or pyramidal crystals or masses. Found in Champlain, New York; Esmark, Norway.

Torbernite, Cu(UO2)2(PO4)2 . 12H2O, A copper uranium phosphate in greenish tabular crystals or scales. Found in Cornwall, England; New Mexico, Hannibal Mine, S. Dakota; the La Sal Mountains of Utah, USA; Mount Painter, Australia; Schneeberg, Germany.

Tyuyamunite, Ca(UO2)2(VO4)2 . 10H2O, A hydrous calcium uranium vanadate in greenish yellow scales or masses. Found in Montrose County, Colorado, Garfield County, Utah, USA; Turkestan, USSR.

Uraninite, UO2, Uranium dioxide in greenish or grayish brown or black cubic crystals or masses also known as pitchblende or cleveite.

Uranophane or uranotile , Ca(UO2)2(Si2O7 . 6H2O, A hydrated calcium uranium silicate in yellow needle-like crystals or crystaline masses. Found in Mitchell County, N. Carolina, USA; Silesia, Czechoslovakia; Saxony, Germany.

Zircon, the semi-precious stone, can be radioactive, even to the extent that it changes crystal structure over a long period of time.

 

 

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