by Greg Klein | September 23, 2015
Delays have been a matter of course for Cigar Lake throughout its 33-year history. So why not wait 18 months to announce the mine’s official opening? Cameco Corp TSX:CCO and AREVA Resources Canada did just that on September 23 as they celebrated the start of mine and mill production with speeches and tours.
Discovered in 1981, Cigar Lake began extraction in March 2014, while McClean Lake packaged the mine’s first concentrate the following October. The mill’s been processing other mine feed since 1999.
Better late than never, Cameco president/CEO Tim Gitzel exclaimed, “This achievement took 10 years, great perseverance and technical creativity, and I commend the many people who contributed.”
Figures for 2015 so far show the eastside Athabasca Basin mill processed 6.1 million pounds U3O8 from Cigar Lake ore, reaching the lower end of the year’s target of six million to eight million packaged pounds. With that target under review, Cameco promised an update in its Q3 report. Full production of 18 million pounds is expected by 2018.
The company has now commissioned three jet boring machines, high-pressure water jets that extract ore from frozen rock 410 to 450 metres underground “at the interface between dry basement rock and the water-bearing sandstone above.” But efficient operation “may halt and resume mining several times during a quarter without impacting planned annual production.”
Some 70 kilometres northeast, McClean Lake expansion continues, with construction expected to finish next year. Full capacity has been targeted at 24 million pounds uranium annually. The mill has churned out over 52 million pounds of concentrate since 1999.
Operator Cameco holds a 50.025% stake in the Cigar Lake joint venture, along with AREVA (37.1%), Idemitsu Canada Resources (7.875%) and TEPCO Resources (5%). Over 600 people work there.
AREVA’s 70% share makes it majority owner as well as operator of McClean Lake, with other JV partners being Denison Mines TSX:DML (22.5%) and OURD Canada (7.5%). This operation employs over 350 workers.