Regulator authorises expansion of Canadian mill tailings facility

18 January 2022

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has amended the uranium mine and mill licence held by Orano Canada Inc allowing it to expand the JEB tailings management facility (TMF) at McClean Lake.

McClean Lake (Image: Orano)

CNSC's decision follows a public hearing held virtually on 4 October 2021 and the amendment to the licence held by Orano for its McClean Lake Operation is valid until 30 June 2027.

The JEB TMF is the repository for tailings from uranium processing activities at the McClean Lake mill. The mill, some 850 km northeast of Saskatoon in northern Saskatchewan, is described by Orano Canada as the world's most technologically advanced uranium mill for the processing of undiluted, high-grade uranium ore, and its flagship operation. It began operations in 1999, and since 2014 has processed ore from the Cigar Lake mine, operated by Cameco. Ore is mixed into a slurry at the minesite and trucked the 80 km to McClean Lake, where it is processed.

The mill can produce 24 million pounds of U3O8 (over 9200 tU) per year, and in 2020 achieved total production of 10.1 million pounds. Before this amendment, the facility was expected to reach its capacity in 2027, CNSC said.

"After reviewing all submissions, the Commission concluded that Orano is qualified to carry out the expansion of the JEB TMF that the amended licence will authorise," the CNSC said. It also concluded that Orano "will make adequate provision for the protection of the environment, and the health and safety of persons."

McClean Lake is owned by Orano (77.5%) and Denison Mines (22.5%). Orano owns 37.1% of Cigar Lake, which is majority owned and operated by Cameco (50.025%).

Researched and written by World Nuclear News