The wait is over: Cameco commences uranium production at Cigar Lake mine
Cameco Corporationannounced last week the official sta...
After 34 years of delays, one of the world’s richest uranium mines is finally coming to fruition.
Cameco Corporation announced last week the official start of production at the Cigar Lake uranium mine and McClean Lake mill in Saskatchewan, Canada, ending 34 years of holdups, troubles and legal delays.
"I thank all of our stakeholders and partners whose strong support helped us bring this rich and challenging deposit into production," said Cameco CEO Tim Gitzel. "This achievement took 10 years, great perseverance and technical creativity, and I commend the many people who contributed."
• Related content: [VIDEO] Cigar Lake Virtual Tour
"We are happy to celebrate these two major uranium mining assets in Saskatchewan, the Cigar Lake mine and the McClean Lake mill," said Olivier Wantz, member of the executive committee and senior executive vice-president, mining and front end business group for Areva Resources Canada Inc, which owns 37 percent of the project. "Their successful operation demonstrates the determination and expertise of our employees to ensure the safe start-up and continued production."
First discovered in 1981, Cigar Lake mine is the world’s second-largest high-grade uranium deposit after McArthur River. Although full scale construction began in 2005 with production planned for 2007, the project endured an array of problems from the beginning.
The mine was flooded in 2006 due to a catastrophic water inflow, with a second flooding occurring in 2008. Although remediation efforts were successful, the price of the project skyrocketed from $450 million to $2.6 billion. In 2014, mining at Cigar Lake began only to be suspended in July in order to allow the ore body to freeze more thoroughly. During 2015, the McClean Lake mill processed and packaged 6.1 million pounds of uranium concentrate from Cigar Lake.
Cameo is expected to ramp up production to 18 million pounds by 2018.
Owners of the project include Cameco (50 percent), AREVA Resources Canada Inc. (37.1 percent), Idemitsu Canada Resources Ltd. (7.875 percent) and TEPCO Resources Inc. (5.0 percent). Cameco is the majority owner and operator.
Anglo American: FutureSmart Mining
Anglo American’s approach to technology, digitalisation and sustainability is changing the nature of the way the company mines. These are the step-change innovations that will transform the nature of mining – how the company sources, mines, processes, moves and markets its products – and how its stakeholders experience that business. Anglo American is transforming its physical and societal footprint with FutureSmart Mining.
“FutureSmart Mining is our innovation-led approach to sustainable mining,” Anglo American’s Tom McCulley told Mining Gllobal. In his role as CEO for Anglo American Peru & Group Head of Projects he has overseen investment of more than $5bn at the company’s Quellaveco copper project in Peru.
“These are the step-change innovations that will transform the nature of mining – how we source, mine, process, move and market our products – and how our stakeholders experience our business. It’s about transforming our physical and societal footprint.”
Anglo is undertaking a feasibility study to assess the possibility of rolling out one of its FutureSmart technologies, Coarse Particle Recovery (CPR), at Quellaveco. “CPR crushes particles to 2.5 times larger than normal, reducing energy consumption and mill time, leading to a 20% increase in throughput and 85% water recovery - a key issue in Peru given the concerns around water scarcity,” says McCulley.
“By allowing water to release from the much coarser particles, CPR will reduce the risks associated with wet tailings and ultimately help eliminate them altogether. When combined with low cost additives, it is possible to dewater residual waste and produce dry stackable tailings. This technology remains a focus area for us as water sent to tailings facilities often represents the largest water loss at a mine.”
Quellaveco is going to be the first mine to run the FutureSmart operating model from day one. Anglo’s idea is to build a stable base on which it can layer new technologies, CPR being one of them.
“We will also be a fully digital mine, which brings us future benefits in terms of understanding and applying changes in real time,” adds McCulley. “Our trucks and our drills will be automation-ready. We have taken the approach that, when we decide to move into an autonomous operation, no jobs will be lost, but the nature of some people’s jobs will have to change.”
FutureSmart is a blend of technology and sustainability,” said McCulley in an interview with Global Business Reports. “If you go back to the vision and design of Quellaveco, it has really been focused on the long-term sustainability of the mine through effective use of things like water, energy and the environment. Quellaveco has been focused on technology such as automation, with digital and analytical tools all coming together. We will be looking at future technologies to bolt on as we go to ensure that we are optimizing the sustainable use of resources and remaining cost-effective.”
Anglo American’s Quellaveco copper project in Peru has created 15,000 jobs during construction and approximately 2,500 jobs are planned for operations, increasing Peru’s copper production by a forecast 300,000 tonnes per year. The mine’s first copper production is expected in 2022. To learn more about Anglo American's Quellaveco copper project read our feature here.