Saskatchewan exploration and developments, 2002
In 2001, the value of Saskatchewan’s non-fuel mineral production exceeded $2.4 billion. In addition to about one third of the world’s potash and uranium, Saskatchewan also produces coal, sodium sulphate, bentonite, sodium chloride, gold, copper, zinc, silver and silica sand. In 2002, approximately $30 million is forecast to be spent on exploration for uranium ($16 million), diamonds ($7 million), gold ($3 million), base metals ($2 million), platinum group metals ($1 million) and rare earths and specialty metals ($1 million).
Uranium development and exploration have both responded to the gradual strengthening of the average uranium spot price, now at US$9.90/pound U3O8 after an all-time low of US$7.10/pound in late 2000. Over a dozen companies acting either independently or in joint ventures are exploring for uranium in the Athabasca Basin. New discoveries continue to be announced including those at Caribou Creek (McClean Lake mine site) and in the Hidden Bay area (UEX Corp.).
Production at McArthur River, the world’s largest high-grade uranium mine (Cameco Corp. 69.805% – operator; Cogema Resources Inc., 30.195%), is expected to reach 18.7 million pounds U3O8 this year. Cameco’s Eagle Point mine restarted at the end of July, and is expected to produce 2.5 million pounds U3O8 by year’s end. The McClean Lake mine (Cogema, 70% – operator; Denison Energy Inc., 22.5%; OURD (Canada) Co. Ltd., 7.5%) is forecast to produce 6 million pounds U3O8. Mining at Cogema’s Cluff Lake mine ceased on May 31, 2002, after producing over 60 million pounds U3O8 since opening in 1980. Cigar Lake, the world’s largest undeveloped high-grade uranium deposit, is expected to come onstream in 2005.
Positive results continue to accrue from diamond exploration in the Fort la Corne area. The Fort la Corne Joint Venture (De Beers Canada Exploration Inc., 42.25%; Kensington Resources Ltd., 42.25%; Cameco, 5.5%; UEM Inc., 10% carried interest) recently reported the results of their 2001 program. Processing of 889.8 tonnes of kimberlite from bodies 141 and 150 yielded 466 macrodiamonds (>1.5 mm diameter) weighing a total of 45.61 carats. The largest diamond weighs 3.35 carats. A $5.2-million program announced for the fall of 2002 will comprise 25 diamond drill holes and 10 large diameter reverse circulation holes in kimberlite 140/141. This will be followed by a conceptual modeling exercise to determine preliminary mining options.
Shore Gold Inc. recently announced that 184 macrodiamonds (>1.1 mm diameter) with a total weight of 8.52 carats (including two fragments weighing 0.64 and 0.40 carat, respectively) had been obtained from 82.7 tonnes of kimberlite from the 24-inch-diameter drill hole Star 030 RC drilled in October 2001. The proposed next phase of evaluation is the extraction of a bulk sample of up to 25,000 tonnes.
The recent rise in the price of gold has rekindled interest in the La Ronge Domain where amongst others Masuparia Gold Corp. is further evaluating the Greywacke property, and Golden Band Resources Inc. is exploring several deposits in the Byers Fault area. In the adjacent Glennie Domain, the Seabee mine (Claude Resources Inc.), Saskatchewan’s sole operating gold mine, is forecast to produce about 50,000 ounces of gold this year.
Most base metal exploration is focused in the Flin Flon area where the Konuto Lake mine and the Saskatchewan portion of the Callinan deposit (both owned 100% by Hudson Bay Mining & Smelting Co., Ltd.) together have the capacity to produce annually in excess of 12,000 tonnes of copper, 5,000 tonnes of zinc, 600 kg (20,000 oz) of gold and 3,600 kg (116,000 oz) of silver.
Rare earths and specialty metals are the focus of exploration activity north of Lake Athabasca.
David MacDougall is at Saskatchewan Industry and Resources, Regina, Sask.