New Uranium Mining Projects - Canada: Cigar Lake
(last updated 19 Dec 2015)
> View Cigar Lake deposit details
> View Cigar Lake Environmental Incidents (Cameco)
> See also: Disposal of Cigar Lake waste rock in the McClean Lake mining facility's Sue C pit
> See also: Expansion of the JEB Mill at McClean Lake to receive and process Cigar Lake ore
> View more recent issues
Cameco announces achievement of commercial production at Cigar Lake mine
Cameco announced the start of commercial production at the Cigar Lake operation at its annual general meeting on May 22, 2015.
(Cameco May 22, 2015)
McClean Lake mill produces first uranium concentrate from ore mined at Cigar Lake mine
> View here
Ore production resumes at Cigar Lake mine after freezing problem
Canadian uranium miner Cameco Corp said on Thursday (Sep. 4) that it has resumed jet-boring, a system of using water to carve out cavities in the ore body, at its Cigar Lake, Saskatchewan mine.
(Reuters Sep. 4, 2014)
Cameco announces further delay at Cigar Lake mine due to freezing problem
Canadian uranium miner Cameco Corp said on Wednesday (July 16) that some ore from its Cigar Lake, Saskatchewan, mine would not be milled until early 2015, instead of before the end of 2014, due to problems with a mining process that involves freezing the ore and the ground around it.
Cameco freezes the ore zone at Cigar Lake and the surrounding ground to prevent water from flooding production areas, but the process has not advanced as quickly as expected, the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based company said. As a result, it has temporarily stopped jet-boring, a system of using water under high pressure to carve out cavities in the ore body.
(Reuters July 16, 2014)
Ore production begins at Cigar Lake mine
Cameco announced today (Mar. 13) that ore production has begun at the Cigar Lake uranium mining operation in northern Saskatchewan.
The mining system and underground processing circuits are operational and ore is being transported to the McClean Lake mill operated by AREVA Resources Canada Inc. which is located 70 kilometres northeast of the minesite.
(Cameco Mar. 13, 2014)
Mining begins at Cigar Lake
On Dec. 16, 2013, Cameco announced that jet boring in ore is underway at the Cigar Lake uranium project in northern Saskatchewan.
Commissioning in ore for the underground mining and process equipment continues. Cameco is on track to begin ore production at Cigar Lake during the first quarter of 2014 as previously announced.
Cameco announces further delay for start of mining operations at Cigar Lake
During commissioning of the underground ore handling facilities in the mine, Cameco identified additional work that will delay jet boring in ore. Based on current information, Cameco expects to begin ore production during the first quarter of 2014.
(Cameco Sep. 9, 2013)
> See also: Processing of Cigar Lake ore at McClean Lake mill to start with delay
CNSC renews construction license and issues operating license for Cigar Lake uranium mine project
Following a one-day public hearing, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) announced on June 13, 2013, its decision to issue a uranium mining licence to Cameco authorizing the construction and operation of its Cigar Lake Project located in northern Saskatchewan. The licence will be valid from July 1, 2013 until June 30, 2021.
> Download Notice of Public Hearing, Dec. 18, 2012 (PDF)
> Download Hearing Transcript April 3, 2013 (PDF)
> View CNSC release Jun. 13, 2013
> Download Record of Proceedings
CNSC announces availability of participant funding on licence renewal for Cigar Lake uranium mine project
Deadline for submission of applications is December 7, 2012.
> View CNSC participant funding opportunities
Cameco, Areva sign milling arrangement to have all ore from Cigar Lake uranium mine processed at McClean Lake mill
On October 5, 2011, Cameco announced it has signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MOU) with its joint venture partners to mill all Cigar Lake ore at the McClean Lake mill.
The new milling arrangement is expected to result in a significant reduction in the operating cost of the Cigar Lake project, which is 50% owned and operated by Cameco. The other Cigar Lake joint venture partners are AREVA Resources Canada Inc. (37%), Idemitsu Resources Canada Inc. (8%) and Tepco Resources Inc (5%).
Binding agreements with the owners of the Cigar Lake project and McClean Lake mill are required to proceed with the new milling arrangements. Cameco expects these agreements to be concluded before November 30, 2011.
In anticipation of these agreements, Cameco and AREVA are commencing work to implement the new arrangement. The McClean Lake mill is owned by the McClean Lake joint venture (70% AREVA, 22.5% Denison Mines Corp., and 7.5% OURD (Canada) Co., Ltd.) and operated by AREVA.
Under the current toll-milling agreements, both the McClean Lake mill and Cameco's Rabbit Lake mill would process uranium from Cigar Lake. Under the new arrangement, the McClean Lake mill would process and package 100% of Cigar Lake uranium. Cameco's Rabbit Lake mill will continue to process ore mined on the site and has the flexibility to process ore from other sources.
On Dec. 19, 2011, Areva and Cameco announced that agreements have been signed with the
owners of the Cigar Lake project and McClean Lake mill to process all Cigar Lake ore at
CNSC invites comment on Environmental Assessment Screening Report for the proposed Cigar Lake Water Inflow Management Project
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) will hold a hearing in June to consider the Environmental Assessment Screening Report (EASR) and licensing action related to the proposal by Cameco Corporation to construct and operate a new water management system at the Cigar Lake mine site. The facility is located in the Cigar Lake area in Northern Saskatchewan.
CNSC staff recommends the Commission to approve the EASR for the proposed Cigar Lake Water Inflow Management Project and approve the construction of the facilities for this project. The operation of the constructed facilities is subject to future approval and will require further details of the operational controls including regular compliance and follow-up program monitoring.
The Commission will consider Cameco's application by way of written submissions, in
a closed session. CNSC staff recommendation and Cameco's submission will be available as of May 27, 2011 by contacting the Secretariat.
The public is invited to comment, in writing, on Cameco's application. Requests to intervene must be filed with the Secretary of the Commission by June 10, 2011.
> Download Notice of Hearing, May 6, 2011 (CNSC)
> Download revised Notice of Hearing, May 10, 2011 (CNSC)
> Download Record of Proceedings, including Reasons for Decision , June 28, 2011 (PDF - CNSC)
All-weather road project between McArthur River and Cigar Lake mine sites
CEAA invites comment on draft Scoping Document Guidelines for environmental assessment on construction of all-weather road between McArthur River and Cigar Lake mine sites:
The public is invited to provide comments on a draft Project-Specific Guidelines and Scoping Document which incorporates the requirements of the federal and provincial environmental assessment processes and identifies the key issues and studies to be addressed in an environmental impact statement.
Please provide your comments by November 29, 2010.
> View Notice of Commencement of an Environmental Assessment: Highway 914 - All-Weather Road between the McArthur River and Cigar Lake Mine Sites, Saskatchewan, Oct. 26, 2010 (CEAA)
On Feb. 2, 2011, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency announced that it has awarded $20,000 to three applicants to support their participation in the federal environmental assessment of the proposed Highway 914 - All Weather Roadway - McArthur River Mine Site to Cigar Lake Mine Site Project in Saskatchewan.
The funding recipients are the Kineepik Métis Local, the English River First Nation and the Saskatchewan Environmental Society .
Cameco resumes drilling at Cigar Lake
Cameco is back to drilling at Cigar Lake after spending the past four years drying out the flooded underground development.
(Prince Albert Daily Herald Sep. 4, 2010)
Cameco resumes underground development at Cigar Lake
On Feb. 11, 2010, Cameco Corp. announced that crews safely re-entered the main working level of the Cigar Lake mine, 480 metres below surface, on February 10, 2010.
Cigar Lake uranium project expected to be ready for development as early as April 2010
Cameco Corp. says it expects to have enough water pumped out of its flooded Cigar Lake uranium mine to resume development on the project by as early as April.
CFO Kim Goheen said Friday (Jan. 22) that the company has already pumped most of the water out of the northern Saskatchewan mine, which has been flooded for three years.
Goheen said refurbishment of shaft one, the main shaft, is three-quarters complete and the water level is down to the 475-to 480-metre level.
"De-watering, and work to secure the underground developments, is expected to be complete between April and October of this year," he told investors in Whistler, B.C.
"Crews have safely re-entered shaft one and are working to restore the ladder way, mechanical and electrical systems, including additional pumping to provide further assurance."
(CP Jan 22, 2010)
Dewatering of flooded Cigar Lake uranium mine project has resumed
On Oct. 23, 2009, Cameco Corporation announced that dewatering of the underground development of the Cigar Lake project has resumed.
The inflow on the 420 metre level that forced suspension of dewatering on August 12, 2008 has been remediated by remotely placing an inflatable seal between the shaft and the source of the inflow and subsequently backfilling and sealing the entire development behind the seal with concrete and grout. The 420 level is not part of future mine plans.
It is currently expected to take six to 12 months to dewater and secure the mine depending on what conditions are found in the shaft and the underground workings.
CNSC approves Cigar Lake uranium mine construction license renewal
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), after holding a one-day public hearing (November 6, 2009), renewed Cameco Corporation's Cigar Lake Project Uranium Mine Construction Licence.
> Download CNSC Notice of Public Hearing, Aug. 31, 2009 (PDF)
> Download Hearing Transcript Nov. 6, 2009 (PDF)
> View CNSC release Dec. 23, 2009
> Download Record of Proceedings, Including Reasons for Decision
Areva considers trucking ore from McArthur River mine to keep McClean Lake mill operating
> View here
Saskatchewan Environment invites comment on draft guidelines for EIS on Cameco's Water Inflow Management Project at Cigar Lake
Cameco Corporation is proposing to increase the Cigar Lake uranium mine's water-handling capabilities to manage future routine and potential non-routine mine water inflows. The new water-handling system would release the treated effluent directly into Seru Bay of Waterbury Lake.
Public comments on the draft guidelines for an Environmental Impact Statement are due by July 28, 2009.
> View Saskatchewan Environment Section 10 Notice 2009-003
McClean Lake mill faces temporary shutdown until Cigar Lake mine operable (Saskatchewan)
> See here
On Feb. 18, 2011, CNSC invited public comment on the EIS prepared by Cameco, CNSC's Technical Review Comments, and the federal EA Screening Report.
Cameco Corporation is proposing to increase the Cigar Lake uranium mine's water-handling capabilities to manage future routine and potential non-routine mine water inflows. The new water-handling system would release the treated mine water directly into Seru Bay of Waterbury Lake.
Comments should be submitted by March 18, 2011.
> Download Request for Public Comment - federal Draft Environmental Assessment Screening Report, Environmental Impact Statement and provincial Technical Review Comments , Feb. 18, 2011 (PDF - CEAA)
> View Cigar Lake Water Inflow Management Project (CNSC)
> Download project documents (Sask. Min. of Environment)
On May 15, 2009, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) announced that it has received notice of intent and a project description from Cameco Corporation (Cameco) for an approval to modify the current water inflow management system to handle increased quantities of water inflow at the Cigar Lake mine, Saskatchewan.
Before the Commission may consider a decision on licensing under the NSCA regarding Cameco's proposal, a screening level environmental assessment (EA) must be completed in compliance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
On Dec. 11, 2009, the CNSC approved the Proposed Project-Specific Guidelines for the Preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement - Cigar Lake Water Inflow Management Project.
> See Cigar Lake Water Inflow Management Project (CNSC)
> Download Record of Proceedings, Including Reasons for Decision (543k PDF)
New groundwater inflow halts repair work at Cigar Lake mine
Cameco Corporation reports that remediation work at the No. 1 Shaft at its Cigar Lake uranium project was temporarily suspended on Aug. 12, 2008, after an increase in the rate of water inflow to the mine was observed.
No. 1 Shaft had been pumped down to 430 metres below surface when the increase was reported in the early morning of Aug. 12, 2008. Work in the shaft was suspended a few hours later. During the day, the inflow rate increased steadily to approximately 600 cubic metres per hour (m3/hr), which is beyond the range that can be managed while sustaining work in the shaft. The mine has a total depth of 500 metres and the mine underground workings are at the 480-metre level.
Work in the shaft has been suspended while the situation is assessed to determine the source and characteristics of the inflow, implications for planned remediation work and the impact, if any, on our planned production date.
Our current plan is to allow the water level in the shaft to rise to approximately 100 metres below surface.
(Cameco Aug. 12, 2008)
CNSC approves pumping of water out of flooded Cigar Lake mine
The CNSC and the Saskatchewan Ministries of Environment and Advanced Education, Employment and Labour have approved Cameco's plans to pump the water out of the mine and to inspect and safely secure the mine once it is pumped out.
(Cameco June 27, 2008)
> Download Notice of Hearing, June 17, 2008 (PDF)
> Download Record of Proceedings, Including Reasons for Decision, June 27, 2008 (PDF)
CNSC to hold hearing on licence amendment for Cigar Lake remediation project
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) will hold a one-day public hearing (September 18, 2008) to consider an application by Cameco Corporation (Cameco) to amend its Cigar Lake construction licence.
The requested licence amendment would authorize Cameco to proceed with the Cigar Lake remediation project. The application includes activities related to initiation and completion of Phases 2, 3 and 4, and a request for authorisation for further surface activities, completion of No. 2 Shaft and the continuation of the activities currently licensed.
The public is invited to comment on Cameco's application. Requests to intervene must be filed by August 18, 2008.
> Download Notice of Public Hearing, June 26, 2008 (PDF)
> Download Cameco presentation to CNSC, July 18, 2008 (6.6M PDF)
On Aug. 29, 2008, Cameco requested deferral of the Cigar Lake Regulatory Hearing, in view of the new water inflow to the mine.
CNSC approves extension of the expiry date of the Cigar Lake construction licence for two years
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) held a one-day public hearing (Nov. 1, 2007) on the application by Cameco Corporation for an amendment to its Cigar Lake construction licence to extend the expiry date for an indeterminate period. On Dec. 3, 2007, CNSC announced the approval of a license amendment for two years.
> Download CNSC Notice of Public Hearing, Aug. 20, 2007 (PDF)
> Download Hearing Transcript Nov. 1, 2007 (PDF)
> View CNSC release Dec. 3, 2007
> Download Record of Proceedings, including Reasons for Decision, Dec. 3, 2007 (PDF)
Second water inflow will delay Cigar Lake mine construction by at least a year
On Oct. 23, 2006, Cameco Corporation reported that Cigar Lake mine construction is expected to be delayed by at least a year after the mine experienced a significant water inflow following a rock fall and a portion of the underground development was allowed to fill with water. The incident began at 1:10 p.m. on Sunday, October 22, 2006, in the future production area that previously had been dry. There were no injuries and there was no impact on the environment. Production startup was previously planned for early 2008.
Cameco later reported that it was unable to contain the water inflow by closing bulkhead doors and that all underground areas of the Cigar Lake project are expected to be filled with water.
On Mar. 18, 2007, Cameco announced that production startup is targeted for 2010, subject to regulatory approval and timely remediation. Total flood remediation cost is estimated at C$92 million.
On April 3, 2007, Cameco issued a Technical Report on Cigar Lake, including an updated capital cost estimate and a production forecast that are considered necessary because of the October 23, 2006 water inflow.
> Download Technical Report March 30, 2007 (4.6M PDF - SEDAR)
On May 4, 2007, CAMECO released an investigation report on the inflow event:
> Download Underground development flood investigation and management response (1.2 MB PDF)
Cameco Corp. said its "deficient" development of the Cigar Lake mine contributed to a flood that delayed the project by three years and will double construction costs.
Blasting by contract miners was performed with the wrong equipment and inadequate safeguards, producing a greater opening in the earth than specified and allowing the mine to flood with groundwater on Oct. 22, 2006, Cameco said in the report.
"Insufficient assessment of the ongoing development, lack of quality control of the excavation and slow installation of ground support -- when taken together -- demonstrate" Cameco "failed to fully appreciate the degree of risk of developing in less than ideal ground conditions," Chief Operating Officer Tim Gitzel said in a May 2, 2007, letter to federal and provincial nuclear regulators that was included in the report.
(Bloomberg May 4, 2007)
On Oct. 31, 2007, Cameco announced that the production startup date is now expected to be 2011, at the earliest.
Water inflow delays construction of Cigar Lake mine
Cameco Corporation announced that construction has been delayed at the second shaft of the Cigar Lake project in northern Saskatchewan. A water inflow began on April 5, 2006, at 5 p.m. at the bottom of the 6-metre wide shaft, 392 metres below the surface. All the workers safely left the area and removed equipment. There was no impact on the environment.
The second shaft will be primarily used for underground ventilation during production. The companyís preliminary assessment indicates that Cigar Lake production may be delayed by about six months and begin in late 2007.
(Cameco Apr 6, 2006)
On May 4, 2007, CAMECO released an investigation report on the inflow event:
> Download Shaft #2 flood investigation and management response (3.8 MB PDF)
Cameco seeks approval for further processing of Cigar Lake uranium at Rabbit Lake mill
> View details
CNSC approves construction of Cameco's Cigar Lake uranium mine
> See also Cameco Regulatory Initiatives - Cigar Lake
On April 1, 2004, CNSC announced
On July 21, 2004, CNSC issued the license for the construction of surface facilities.
- a one-day public hearing on July 7, 2004 on Cameco's application for surface construction activities at the Cigar Lake facility in 2004.
- a two-day public hearing on July 7 and November 17, 2004 on Cameco's application for a full construction licence at the Cigar Lake facility.
> Download CNSC Notice of Public Hearing (PDF)
> Download July 7, 2004 Updated Public Hearings Agenda (PDF)
> Download July 7, 2004 Hearing Transcript (construction of mining and support facilities) (PDF)
> Download July 7, 2004 Hearing Transcript (construction of surface facilities) (PDF)
> View CNSC release July 21, 2004 (construction of surface facilities)
> Download CNSC Record of Proceedings, including the Reasons for Decision, July 21, 2004 (construction of surface facilities) (PDF)
On Dec. 20, 2004, CNSC issued the full construction license.
> Download Nov. 17, 2004 Hearing Transcript (PDF)
> View CNSC release Dec. 20, 2004 (construction of the remaining mining and support facilities)
> Download CNSC Record of Proceedings, including the Reasons for Decision, Dec. 20, 2004 (construction of the remaining mining and support facilities) (PDF)
> Download Cameco Project description May 2003 update (3M PDF - Cameco)
> Download Cameco Construction, Operation and Decommissioning Environmental Assessment Study Report January 2004 (56M PDF - Cameco)
> Download Cameco Construction, Operation and Decommissioning Environmental Assessment Study Report February 2004 Addendum (2.1M PDF - Cameco)
> Download Cameco Construction license application July 2004 (3.3M PDF - Cameco)
> Download Cameco Surface construction CMD July 2004 (1.4M PDF - Cameco)
CNSC Environmental Assessment for the proposed construction of the Cigar Lake uranium mine
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) held a one-day public hearing (June 25, 2003) on the Environmental Assessment Guidelines (EA Guidelines) for the proposed construction of a mining facility at the Cigar Lake Project, located in northern Saskatchewan.
The draft EA Guidelines (scoping document) was made available to the public on May 9, 2003.
On Aug. 29, 2003, the CNSC "announced its approval of the Environmental Assessment Guidelines (Scope of Project and Assessment) that will be used to direct a screening environmental assessment of Cameco Corporationís proposed construction of the Cigar Lake uranium mining facility near Wollaston Lake in northern Saskatchewan."
> View CNSC Release (Aug. 29, 2003)
> Download CNSC Record of Proceedings, including the Reasons for Decision (Aug. 29, 2003) (PDF)
> Download CNSC Hearing Transcript (PDF)
On March 3, 2004, CNSC issued a Request for Public Comment on the Screening Report - Cigar Lake Mine, Construction, Operation and Decommissioning.
> View CNSC announcement March 3, 2004
On June 10, 2004, CNSC held a one-day hearing to consider the results of the Environmental Assessment Screening Report (EA Screening Report). On June 30, 2004, CNSC announced its conclusion that Cameco's proposed "construction and/or modification of the CigarLake uranium mine site facilities, taking into account identified mitigation measures, is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects". CNSC further decided not to refer the project to the federal Minister of the Environment for referral to a review panel or mediator.
> Download CNSC Notice of Public Hearing (PDF)
> Download June 10, 2004 Updated Public Hearings Agenda (PDF)
> Download Hearing Transcript June 10, 2004 (PDF)
> View CNSC release June 30, 2004
> Download Record of Proceedings, including the Reasons for Decision, June 30, 2004 (PDF)
> View CNSC information on Environmental Assessment - Construction and Operation of the Cigar Lake Uranium Mine
> See also: Disposal of Cigar Lake waste rock in the McClean Lake mining facility's Sue C pit
Construction of Cigar Lake mine could start in 2003
Construction of the Cigar Lake uranium mine could begin some time in 2003 if the price of uranium remains high, says a spokesman for Cameco Corp. "We're applying for the licences to construct," Jamie McIntyre said. (Financial Post July 10, 2002)
CAMECO new operator of the Cigar Lake Project
On December 11, 2001, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), after a two-day public hearing (Oct. 4 and Nov. 15, 2001), issued a Uranium Mine Site Preparation Licence for the Cigar Lake Project to Cameco Corporation of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The previous license to CLMC was revoked.
> Download CNSC Release July 25, 2001 (PDF)
> Download Transcript of October 4, 2001, hearing (PDF)
> Download Transcript of November 15, 2001, hearing (PDF)
> View CNSC Release Dec. 11, 2001
> Download CNSC Record of Decision Dec. 11, 2001 (PDF)
Site Preparation Licence issued for Cigar Lake Mine
On July 31, 2001, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) announced the decision to approve a site preparation licence for Cigar Lake Mining Corporation's (CLMC) Uranium Mine Site. The Cigar Lake Mining Corporation had applied to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for a licence to continue to manage the Cigar Lake underground mine in a care and maintenance mode for a three-year period.
Hearings were held on May 29, 2001, and June 28, 2001.
> View CNSC News Release July 31, 2001
> Download Record of Proceedings, Including Reasons for Decision, July 26, 2001 (PDF)
> Download Transcript of June 28, 2001 Hearing (PDF)
> Download Transcript of May 29, 2001 Hearing (PDF) (presentations by CLMC and CNSC staff)
> Download CNSC Release March 6, 2001 (PDF)
Cameco announces delay of Cigar Lake project
Cameco announced that the Cigar Lake mine will be delayed until 2005 because of the time needed for licensing and construction. (UI News Briefing 01.07, Feb. 14, 2001; Cameco Feb. 6, 2001)
Cameco becomes majority owner of Cigar Lake
Cameco agreed to purchase from Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) an additional 1.275 percent of the Cigar Lake project, increasing its controlling interest from 48.75 percent to 50.025 percent. (Cameco News Release April 27, 1999 )
KEPCO's remaining interest of 0.725% in the Cigar Lake project was acquired by COGEMA. (Saskatoon Star Phoenix, May 6, 1999)
Cigar Lake ore to be processed at Rabbit Lake rather than McClean Lake
"The owners of the Cigar Lake project have agreed, in principle, to process the majority of Cigar Lake ore in the Rabbit Lake mill, subject to regulatory approval." (Cameco news release Nov. 24, 1998 )
Cameco must prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) if they wish to proceed with the project. Draft project-specific guidelines for an EIS have been prepared identifying key issues to be addressed. Public comment on the draft project-specific guidelines is invited. Comments must be submitted by May 31, 1999. (Environmental Impact Assessment Notice )
AECB orders cease work at McClean Lake Tailings Management Facility
> See under McClean Lake
AECB approves construction of JEB Tailings Management Facility
> See under McClean Lake
Government approval for Cigar Lake uranium mine project
On April 3, 1998, the Government of Canada and the Government of
Saskatchewan approved the Cigar
Lake uranium project to proceed subject to certain
The Government of Canada agrees with most of the Review Panel's
recommendations (see below), with one major exception:
"The Government does not agree with the Panel's
condition that experiments be conducted to determine long-term
acceptability of the tailings management facility
before starting to deposit the tailings. Federal
regulatory agencies consider that experimental studies of the
aging tailings should take place at the same time that
disposal takes place." [...]
> View Natural Resources of Canada press release: 98/22 · 98/22 (a)
· 98/22 (b)
> View Govt. of Saskatchewan press releases: 98-231 · 98-232
> View Cameco press release .
Review Panel recommends approval of Cigar Lake mining
project, subject to conditions
- Panel wants to avert waste rock disposal in lakes
- Panel demands for evidence that the proposed tailings
disposal won't have long term impacts on Fox Lake
- Panel expresses severe mistrust in COGEMA, the proposed
tailings management facility operator
On November 13, 1997, the Joint Federal-Provincial Panel on
Uranium Mining Developments in Northern Saskatchewan issued its
report to the government recommending the approval of the Cigar Lake uranium mining project
in Northern Saskatchewan, Canada, subject to conditions.
The public review period for the Panel report ended February 5,
1998 (view SERM notice ).
Excerpt from the Panel Report summary:
"Approval of the Cigar Lake Project is
recommended with certain reservations. The reservations are
associated primarily with the use of the proposed JEB Tailings
Management Facility where the tailings produced from the milling
of the Cigar Lake ore would be stored and with the selection of
a site for disposal of mine waste rock.
> View panel report: executive summary · full report (251k)
It is recommended that approval for mining, as described in the
Environmental Impact Statement, be granted subject to the
ability of the proponent to locate an environmentally acceptable
place to dispose of mine waste rock. Disposal in an existing
lake should be avoided if other acceptable sites, such as a
mined-out pit, are available.
CLMC proposes to custom mill its ore at the JEB mill, operated
by Cogema Resources Inc., at McClean Lake. We recommend approval
of the concept for tailings disposal represented by the JEB
Tailings Management Facility (TMF), but with major site-specific
The proposed JEB TMF, to be constructed using natural surround
technology, is an attractive option for tailings disposal
because it provides an opportunity to realize several
environmental benefits relative to other methods for tailings
disposal. Among these benefits are an increase in worker
protection through the use of subaqueous deposition; reduction
of environmental disruption at several locations, as a result of
combining deposition of tailings from many ore bodies at one
site; the avoidance of engineered barriers which may fail in the
long term; the minimization of weathering problems; and the
protection of the contents of the pit from scarification by
glaciers during the next ice age. Because of these potential
advantages, the concept for tailings disposal represented by the
JEB TMF proposal is recommended.
However, there are critical site-specific technical and
managerial concerns that must be resolved before this particular
tailings management facility can be recommended. Chief among the
technical concerns is the need for convincing evidence that
operation of the TMF would not result in the contamination of
Fox Lake in the long term. This concern is exacerbated by a lack
of confidence in the managerial and scientific competence of the
operator, Cogema. In addition, the obvious dismissive attitude
of this company for the regulators and their concerns suggests
that it would not be appropriate for Cogema, as currently
managed, to be given responsibility for constructing and
managing this very dangerous radioactive waste disposal
> View Panel press release
> View Cameco press release of Nov. 13, 1997
> View Saskatchewan Environmental Society response to the Panel Report (Jan. 27, 1998)
The Cigar Lake uranium deposit has geological reserves of
150,000 tonnes of uranium at an extremely high ore grade of
7.8%. The deposit cannot be mined by conventional mining
techniques, for its high radiation and its location in an
unstable geologic formation about 450 meters below ground.
Therefore, a new mining technology is to be used, which avoids
human contact with the ore: First, the ore deposit is
artificially frozen to improve its geotechnical stability, then
the ore will be extracted by high pressure water jet-boring. The
ore is crushed and ground underground and then hydraulically
pumped to the surface for further treatment.
The ore will be trucked over a distance of 80 km and milled at
the JEB mill at the McClean Lake mine site.
The tailings resulting from the chemical uranium extraction from
the ore are to be dumped under a water cover in the open pit of
the former JEB uranium mine nearby "to be totally isolated
from the environment". For disposal, a variation of the
scheme known as `pervious surround disposal' is to be used: the
slurries will be neutralized with lime and dehydrated to a paste
with a comparatively high solids contents of 50%. The
surrounding rock then has a higher permeability than the paste,
leading to minimized contaminant migration to the surrounding
groundwater, according to the proponents.
Previous `pervious surround disposal' pilot sites in France and
Canada included installation of a special layer of highly
permeable material in the open pit before deposition of the
tailings. This layer is now omitted, although there even is
still no evidence of the long-term performance of the `pervious
surround disposal' scheme used so far.
A bilingual (English/French) 24-page summary (The Cigar Lake
Project - Environmental Impact Statement - Executive Summary,
July 1995) of CLMC's EIS is available from the Panel
View Comments on the Environmental
Impact Statement for the Cigar Lake and Midwest Joint Ventures
Proposal (46k), prepared by Radioactive Waste Management Associates for the Saskatchewan Uranium Coalition (RWMA publication No. 051).
On August 26, 1996, CLMC submitted a new plan for a changed
tailings disposal concept, compared to the plan described in the
EIS: the new plan comprises a combined pervious surround and
subaqueous disposal scheme.
For updates on the review process, see CEAA Cigar Lake Panel Information