Cameco has started jet boring operations at the Cigar Lake uranium project in northern Saskatchewan, Canada.
Mine operator Cameco, which also owns just over a 50% stake in the project, said that commissioning of the underground process equipment is now underway and that Cigar Lake remains "on track" to begin ore production during the first quarter of 2014.
The innovative jet boring technique involves the use of high-pressure water jets to carve out cavities in the orebody. Ore slurry will then be treated in underground grinding and thickening circuits before being pumped to the surface as slurry and then trucked to the McClean Lake mill, 70km away for processing.
AREVA has said that mill modifications are proceeding on schedule for completion by mid-2014 when milling of Cigar Lake ore is expected to begin.
Additional work completed
Jet boring operations were initially slated to begin at Cigar Lake this summer, however in September 2013 Cameco announced that additional mine work was needed, as well as modifications to the McClean Lake mill, majority-owned and operated by AREVA.
"All additional mine work identified in September 2013 has been completed. Commissioning in ore for the underground mining and process equipment continues," Cameco said, 16 December.
"AREVA has also reported that mill modifications are proceeding on schedule for completion by the end of the second quarter of 2014 when milling of Cigar Lake ore is expected to begin," it added.
The Cigar Lake project, which is owned by Cameco, AREVA Resources Canada Inc (37.1%), Idemitsu Canada Resources Ltd. (7.9%) and TEPCO Resources Inc. (5.0%), was first discovered in 1981. Probable reserves amount to 216.7 million pounds of U3O8 at an average grade of 18.3%, making it one of the world's highest-grade uranium deposits.
Photo: The Cigar Lake project (Source: Cameco)