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Uranium miners operate equipment used to extract uranium ore. They work under the supervision of engineers who manage the mining process as well as the processing to strip out the ore for transport. This work can involve long hours in grueling conditions and requires a high level of physical fitness. Many uranium miners have extensive experience, and some have pursued formal education in mining and related subjects in order to work effectively and safely. People with advanced qualifications may be able to work as supervisors and team leaders.
Sites for potential mines are identified through surveys and inspections conducted by geologists. They determine how much uranium is present, whether it is worth extracting, and what kinds of techniques may be needed to access it. Typically, uranium is mined in an open pit approach, which requires substantial heavy equipment to methodically move through a deposit to extract the ore. Uranium miners receive direction from supervisors who decide where they should work on any given day.
Miners usually operate heavy equipment to open up the pit, extract ore, and move it to processing stations. Usually uranium ore contains a number of impurities and it would be impractical to ship unprocessed. As a result uranium mines may be attached to milling facilities that treat the ore to purify it before loading it for further processing. Uranium miners can be involved at all stages of this process, to obtain the valuable ore and process it for uranium and other useful components.
Concerns about radiation may require uranium miners to use and wear special equipment to protect themselves and members of the public while they work. This can include respirators, which also protect the airways from harmful dust, and heavy garments to limit injuries from falling rock and other materials. Hearing protection may also need to be worn because mines can be extremely noisy environments, with decibel levels high enough to pose a risk of hearing loss.
Safety engineers work with uranium miners to make sure their working conditions stay as safe as possible. Measures to improve safety can include following specific protocols for handling mining activity, wearing appropriate gear, and setting up anonymous reporting to allow miners to report safety problems without fear of retaliation. Individual miners may act as supervisors and safety inspectors for their teams, and can also work as union stewards who represent their coworkers when grievances need to be filed with the union.
What scientists are involved in processing and manufacturing uranium?
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