Following regulatory approval of Cigar Lake, mine operator Cameco said it plans to begin jet boring in ore 'this summer', with the first 'packaged pounds' expected toward the end of the year, according to Cameco president and CEO Tim Gitzel.
Cameco is also 50% owner, with co-investors AREVA (37%), Idemitsu Canada Resources (8%) and TEPCO Resources (5%).
Cameco said that its share of the deposit's proven and probable reserves is 108.4 million pounds U3O8 at an average grade of 18.3%.
The high-grade ore will be removed by a non-entry method jet boring system that will be deployed within access tunnels being developed about 25 metres beneath the orebody. Jet boring involves using water under high pressure to carve out cavities in the orebody and then collecting the resulting ore slurry through pipes. The Cigar Lake mining process also involves backfilling the cavities in the orebody with concrete once the ore is removed. Ore collected by the jet boring system will be taken to underground grinding and thickening circuits and then pumped to surface as slurry. At the surface, the ore will be loaded in special containers for truck transport to the mill. Cigar Lake ore will be processed through a toll milling arrangement at AREVA's McClean Lake operation, located 70 km to the northeast of Cigar Lake.
Before mining begins, the Cigar Lake orebody is being frozen to improve ground conditions, prevent water inflow and improve radiation protection.
The mine's operating licence will be valid from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2021. Canadian regulator CNSC said that in making its decision, it considered information presented at the public hearing held on 3 April 2013 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. During the hearing, the Commission received and considered submissions from Cameco and 11 intervenors, as well as CNSC staff's recommendations.
"We are pleased with this decision," said Tim Gitzel, Cameco's president and CEO. "This licence will allow Cameco to advance the Cigar Lake project into production and shows Canada's nuclear regulator has confidence in our team."