The Cigar Lake mine in northern Saskatchewan is one of the richest uranium mines in the world, but also one of the most complex.
It is owned by Cameco (50.025%, operator), AREVA (37.1%), Idemitsu (7.875%) and TEPCO (5.0%) .
It took Cameco (CCO:TSX) nearly 10 years and $2.6 billion to build. The ground in which the ore is deposited is so unstable that in order to mine it, Cameco actually has to freeze the surrounding areas in a new process called ‘jet boreing’.
The company started mining at Cigar Lake in March 2014, but operations were suspended not long after in order to allow the underground to freeze further. The mine restarted in early September.
Today it was announced that Cameco’s first uranium concentrate was produced from Cigar Lake’s extremely high-grade ore through the McClean Lake mill (70% AREVA – operator, 22.5% Denison and 7.5% OURD Canada).
“Cigar Lake is among the world’s richest and most technically challenging orebodies and I congratulate all of the people who helped to bring it into production,” said Cameco President and CEO Tim Gitzel. “It provides Cameco with a large-scale, low-cost production centre and positions us to take full advantage of the long-term growth we see coming in our industry.”
The McClean Lake mill recently completed modifications in order for it to process the high-grade ore from the Cigar Lake mine. The ore is trucked 70kms northeast from the mine to the mill for processing.
Cigar Lake will produce uranium at an average grade of 15.8% U3O8 and currently contains over 216 million pounds.
To date, Cameco has delivered about 1,400 tonnes of ore to the McClean Lake mill where it is expected to produce up to 1 million pounds of uranium from Cigar Lake ore in 2014 before ramping up to its full-scale capacity of 18 million pounds per year by 2018.
Cameco is one of the world’s largest uranium producers and accounts for nearly 15% of the world’s output.
Below is a link to a video on the Cigar Lake mine (Financial Post):
*Note, all figures stated on a 100%-basis.