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McClean Lake uranium mining to restart

24th January 2024

By: Mariaan Webb

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

     

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The McClean Lake Joint Venture (MLJV) will restart uranium mining operations, targeting 800 000 lb of uranium oxide (U3O8) in 2025, Orano Canada and Denison Mines announced on Wednesday.

Mining at McClean Lake was suspended in 2008 in response to declining uranium prices. During the interim 15 years, the MLJV invested in the development of a proprietary mining method designed to selectively extract high-grade Athabasca basin uranium ores from surface. 

The successful mining test of the Surface Access Borehole Resource Extraction (SABRE) method in 2021 provided the MLJV with important information about the productivity and cost of SABRE operations, explained Denison president and CEO David Cates.

“This information suggests an incentive price meaningfully lower than current uranium prices, which has provided the JV with a strong basis to make a restart decision for mining at McClean Lake.”

SABRE employs a non-entry approach using a high-pressure water jet at the base of a drill hole to create a mining cavity. The excavation cuttings are then lifted to the surface, separated, and stockpiled.

Regarded as an innovative mining technique, SABRE holds significant potential for providing economic access to relatively small, high-grade ore bodies in the Athabasca basin. The technique is said to be especially beneficial for ore bodies too small or too deep for conventional openpit or underground mining.

Mining is planned to start at the McClean North deposit in 2025, with 2024 activities expected to focus on preparations necessary to ready the existing SABRE mining site and equipment for continuous commercial operations, as well as the installation of eight pilot holes for the first mining cavities planned for excavation. The approved budget for this work in 2024 is C$7-million.

Besides the 800 000 lb U3O8 targeted for production from McClean North in 2025, about three-million pounds have been identified for potential additional production from a combination of the McClean North and Caribou deposits during the years 2026 to 2030.

The McClean Lake mill should have sufficient capacity to process the ore, while continuing with committed planned production from Cigar Lake.

“It’s an exciting time for employees, partners, and the industry as we return to a focus on growth,” said Orano president and CEO Jim Corman.

Orano Canada owns a 77.5% interest and is the operator of the MLJV and Denison owns a 22.5% interest.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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