Regulatory approval for McClean Lake mill expansion

01 June 2016

The McClean Lake uranium mill in northern Saskatchewan has obtained authorization from the Canadian nuclear regulator almost to double its annual production.  

McClean Lake - 460 (Areva)  
McClean Lake (Image: Areva)  

The McClean Lake mill is owned by the McClean Lake Joint Venture (MLJV) - between Areva Resources Canada (70%), Denison Mines (22.5%) and OURD Canada (7.5%) - and is operated by Areva. Ore from the nearby Cigar Lake mine - which entered commercial operation in May 2015 - is milled and packaged at the McClean Lake mill. Cigar Lake is owned by Cameco (50.25%), Areva Resources Canada (37.1%), Idemitsu Canada Resources (7.875%) and Tepco Resources (5.0%) and is operated by Cameco.

The McClean Lake mill began production of uranium concentrates in 1999, processing ore from the JEB deposit at McClean Lake. The first ore was fed to the mill in June 1999 and commercial production was achieved in November 1999. The mill operated until the end of June 2010, producing about 49.9 million pounds U3O8 when it was placed on stand-by owing to a lack of ore.

Since 2013, an upgrade and expansion program has been undertaken at the McClean Lake mill to improve, modernize and increase the capacity of various circuits. It has been upgraded to enable it to process Cigar Lake's high-grade ore without dilution. In 2014, the mill re-commenced operations with the delivery of ore shipments from the Cigar Lake mine.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has now authorized the mill to raise its annual production from 13 million pounds U3O8 per year to 24 million pounds per year.

"This regulatory approval by the CNSC will lead to a progressive ramp-up of the mill in line with the Cigar Lake mine's ramp-up to 18 million pounds annually," Areva said. "The tandem Cigar Lake mine and McClean Lake mill will therefore become the second-largest uranium production centre in the world."

Areva's senior vice president for mining and front-end business, Olivier Wantz, said McClean Lake is the most technologically advanced mill in the world for processing of high-grade uranium ore. "The safety of workers and environmental protection are at the centre of the mill expansion project," he added.

Denison president and CEO David Coles said the restart of the mill had been "a tremendous success" for the MLJV and praised Areva's "commitment to delivering operational results while maintaining a focus on the safety of the MLJV's workers and the environment." He added, "With authorization from the CNSC to increase the annual production at the mill, the MLJV is now in a position to deliver on its tolling commitment with the Cigar Lake joint venture and will have excess licensed processing capacity - which speaks to the strategic importance of the mill to the entire region."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News