Environmental approval for Canadian mine

20 August 2012

Canada's environment minister has approved the environmental assessment (EA) for the Midwest uranium project in Saskatchewan.

Midwest - OURD
The Midwest deposit (Image: OURD)

Peter Kent, the federal minister of environment, announced that the proposed mining and milling of the Midwest project is unlikely to cause significant adverse environmental effects as long as the mitigation measures and follow-up programs described in the comprehensive study report are carried out. He has referred the project back to the responsible authorities - the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Natural Resources Canada and Transport Canada - for appropriate action.

The Midwest project is located some 15km west of the McClean Lake operation. It has indicated resources of 42.9 million pounds U3O8 (16,500 tU) at an average ore grade of 5.5%. The project involves development of the Midwest ore deposit as an open pit mine; development of a dedicated haul road linking the Midwest development with the existing McClean Lake operation; and increasing the production capacity of the JEB mill at McClean Lake to accommodate the planned rate for milling of the Midwest ore. The partners in the Midwest joint venture comprise Areva Resources Canada (69.16%), Denison (25.17%) and OURD Canada Co (5.67%). Midwest is to be operated by Areva Resources, which already operates McClean Lake.

The EA submission was made in October 2007 and a decision on it was originally anticipated in the first half of 2009. The EA was based on mining the Midwest deposit by conventional open pit mining methods. However, the partners are currently evaluating other potential mining methods including conventional underground and surface jet bore drilling using the SABRE ("Surface Access Borehole Resource Extraction") mining technology, as well as open pit. A three hole test mining program of the SABRE method is underway on the McClean Lake property.

Denison president and CEO Ron Hochstein commented, "The approval of this EA has taken over six years and been an arduous process and is a key milestone in the development of this project."

The extensive timeline of the Midwest project's environmental assessment was recently cited by senior government officials as an example of the need for regulatory reform in Canada.

Areva Resources Canada CEO Vincent Martin said, "We appreciate the government's dedication to improving regulatory reviews while maintaining a strong focus on safety and environmental protection. The completion of Midwest's environmental assessment is a significant step forward for the project, but let us hope regulatory reform will improve the timeline of current and future reviews."

In February 2008, the project partners announced a decision to proceed with the Midwest project, anticipating ore removal starting by September 2011 and continuing through to 2013. Processing of ore at the McClean Lake mill was expected to begin in late 2011. However, in November 2008 the partners announced their decision to postpone the uranium mine project due to economic conditions. Denison said the postponement was due to the "current economic climate, delays and uncertainties associated with the regulatory approval process, the increasing capital and operating costs and the current market for uranium."

Areva said, "Several steps remain before the Midwest partners can reach a decision regarding the project, including completion of an updated feasibility study."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News