SASKATCHEWAN – Earlier this week, CAMECO CORP. of Saskatoon updated its plans to repair the brine inflow that has halted development at the Cigar Lake uranium project in the Athabasca Basin. Those plans will cost an estimated $102 million. Last year $10 million was spent; spending is underway this year of another $74 million; and another $18 million is earmarked for 2008.
Flooding began on Oct. 22, 2006, at the worlds largest undeveloped uranium deposit (232.0 million lb U3O8 at an average grade of 19%). The first phase of remediation should be complete in Q3 2007. It involves drilling dewatering holes and injection holes in the vicinity of the inflow so that concrete can be placed as a seal. The second phase is to dewater the underground development, and to begin to install the surface freezing infrastructure. The third phase involves additional work that might be needed to be done in higher-risk areas, expected to be complete by the end of 2007.
Phase four consists of completing the underground rehabilitation including securing areas where future rockfalls might start additional water problems, re-establishing mine ventilation, expanding the pumping capacity, and restarting the ore freezing program. It should be done during the summer of 2008. Then normal construction activities will be resumed (phase five).
Cameco (www.Cameco.com) is planning to release a new capital estimate of $1.0 billion for construction by the end of this month, a jump of over 50% (see CMJ, February 2006). The Cigar Lake project is funded by Cameco (50%), AREVA RESOURCES (37%), IDEMITSU URANIUM (8%) and TOKYO ELECTRIC (5%).
Start-up for Cigar Lake has been pushed back almost two years, to 2010. Nonetheless, Cameco says the project remains financially attractive in part due to the expected low uranium production costs.