Cameco reported on September 9, that production from its Cigar Lake uranium mining project in northern Saskatchewan, which had been scheduled to begin during the second half of 2013, will be delayed until the first quarter of 2014, due to some problems encountered during commissioning. Construction of the Cigar Lake mine was 97% complete at the time of the announcement, and commissioning of the mining systems was well advanced. However, additional work related to water seepage in the underground ore handling facilities was delaying the start of jet boring in ore.
In addition, Cameco reported that further modifications to the McClean Lake mill were required and that the mill would not be ready to begin processing Cigar Lake ore until the second quarter of 2014.
The Cigar Lake project is owned by Cameco (50.025%), Areva (37.1%), Idemitsu Canada Resources (7.875%), and Tepco Resources (5.0%) and is operated by Cameco. Ore from Cigar Lake will be processed at the McClean Lake mill, which is majority owned and operated by Areva Resources Canada. As a result of these developments, Cameco will not meet its previously forecast production target of approximately 300,000 lb of U3O8 from Cigar Lake during 2013. Cameco plans to revise its five-year production forecast as part of its annual reporting for 2013 when further progress is made on commissioning of the mine and mill.
The Cigar Lake deposit occurs at depths ranging between 410 to 450 m below the surface, where water-saturated Athabasca sandstone meets the underlying basement rocks. Due to geological conditions, the deposit and surrounding rock must be frozen to improve the ground stability and prevent groundwater inflows to the mine.
A jet boring mining method will be operated from tunnels in the basement rock below the orebody, using high-pressure water jets to mine-out cavities in the ore. A mixture of ore and water will be piped away from the cavities to underground processing circuits, where it will be ground and thickened and pumped to the surface for transportation to the McClean Lake mill for processing to uranium concentrate.
Cameco does not anticipate that the capital cost of the Cigar Lake project will be materially impacted by the additional work required at the mine and mill.