Cigar Lake start-up delayed until 2014

09 September 2013

Production from the Cigar Lake uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan has been put back until early 2014 due to additional work on underground ore handling equipment. Modifications are also required at Areva's nearby McClean Lake mill before the ore can be processed.

Cigar Lake headframe (Cameco)_460
Ore is not expected to now be taken from Cigar Lake until next year (Image: Cameco)

Cameco, which operates Cigar Lake, had planned to begin production this summer. Ore from the mine is to be processed through a toll-milling agreement at Areva's McClean Lake mill.

However, Cameco has now announced that, with construction of the mine already 97% complete and commissioning of the mining systems underway, it does not expect ore production to begin until during the first quarter of 2014. The delay, it said, was due to unspecified problems with the ore handling facilities.

At the same time, Areva has told Cameco that additional modifications are required at McClean Lake and that the mill is now expected to start processing Cigar Lake ore by mid-2014.

Cameco said that as a result of the delay it will not meet its forecast of producing 300,000 pounds of U3O8 (115 tU) from Cigar Lake in 2013.

Cigar Lake is the world's second largest high-grade uranium deposit, with grades that are 100 times the world average. The orebody is being frozen prior to mining to improve ground conditions, prevent water inflow and improve radiation protection. The ore will be removed by a jet boring system, using water under high pressure to carve out cavities in the orebody and the resulting ore slurry collected through pipes. This will be taken to underground grinding and thickening circuits and then pumped to surface as slurry, which will be loaded into special containers for the 70 kilometre journey by road to McClean Lake.

Cigar Lake is being developed by Cameco (50%), Areva (37%), Idemitsu (8%) and Tepco (5%). The mine will eventually produce 6900 tonnes of uranium per year. The McClean Lake mill is owned by Areva (70%), Denison (22.5%) and Japan's Overseas Uranium Resource Development Company (7.5%).

Cameco president and CEO Tim Gitzel: "Cigar Lake is among the most technically challenging mining projects in the world and we continue to make solid progress. Cameco and Areva are fully committed to bring this exceptional orebody into production in a safe and sustainable way."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News