Areva Resources Canada has obtained approval from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to increase U3O8 production at the McClean Lake mill in northern Saskatchewan from 13 million to 24 million lb/y. The mill is owned by Areva (70%), Denison Mines (22.5%), and OURD Canada (7.5%). Areva is the operator. Since 2013, the mill has been through an upgrade and expansion program to improve, modernize, and increase the capacity of its various circuits, so it has capacity in place to meet higher production targets.
The McClean Lake mill is the only facility in the world designed to process high-grade uranium ore without dilution. Mill feed from the Cigar Lake mine 70 km to the southwest averages 16.7% U3O8. The Cigar Lake mine is owned by Cameco Corp. (50.025% and operator), Areva (37.1%), Idemitsu Canada Resources (7.875%), and Tepco Resources (5%).
Approval of Areva’s application to increase production will allow Cameco to meet its 2016 Cigar Lake production target of 16 million lb of packaged uranium concentrate and also will allow the mill to handle all of the mine’s production as the mine ramps up to design capacity of 18 million lb/y in 2017.
The Cigar Lake mine came into production in 2014. Cameco mines the orebody using a jet-boring mining method operated from tunnels in the basement rock below the orebody. Mined ore is ground and thickened underground and pumped to the surface as a slurry, then slurry is loaded into special containers and transported by truck to the McClean Lake mill for processing.
With approval to produce as much as 24 million lb/y of U3O8, the McClean Lake mill has potential to process ore from other mines in the region.