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Issues at Cluff Lake Uranium Mine, Saskatchewan, Canada

(last updated 7 Feb 2002)


Current Issues

> See also Cluff Lake decommissioning issues


Mining at Cluff Lake to continue through May 2002, milling through Dec 2002

"After two extra years of life, the mining portion of the Cluff Lake operation is expected to shut down by May 2002. By that time, resources in the West DJ mine and West DJ extension will have been depleted. Milling on site is expected to continue until approximately December 2002 when the economically viable reserves will have all been milled." (COGEMA Res. Communiqué Dec. 2001)


Cluff Lake licence renewal

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) held a two-day public hearing (Oct.4 and Dec.13, 2001) on an application by COGEMA Resources Inc. for the renewal of a licence to operate the Cluff Lake Mining Facility. The license was issued on Dec. 28, 2001.
> Download CNSC Announcement of July 25, 2001 (PDF)
> Download Transcript of October 4, 2001, hearing (PDF)
> Download Transcript of December 13, 2001, hearing (PDF)
> View CNSC news release Dec. 28, 2001
> Download Record of Proceedings, Including Reasons for Decision (Dec. 28, 2001) (PDF)


AECB invites public comment on Cluff Lake licence renewal

The Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) is inviting public comment on the upcoming renewal of the mining facility operating licence for the Cogema Resources Inc., Cluff Lake Mine. Comments must be received by November 26, 1998.
> View AECB News Release 98-28 of Oct. 26, 1998


Cogema closes Cluff Lake uranium mine

On August 20, 1998, Cogema Resources Inc. announced it is shutting down its Cluff Lake uranium mine in December 2000. Corporate vice-president Tim Gitzel said the mine can't support the investment needed to create a new waste tailings facility in the industry's current economic conditions. (Saskatoon StarPhoenix Aug. 21, 1998)
> View Cogema press release Aug. 21, 1998 )


No license renewal for Cogema's Cluff Lake uranium mine

The Canadian Atomic Energy Control Board has denied the two year license renewal requested by Cogema for its Cluff Lake uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan. Instead, AECB approved an extension to the current license (expiring March 31, 1998) for another nine months, subject to several conditions.

This decision reflects a number of deficiencies identified by AECB at the Cluff Lake site:

Excerpt from AECB News Release 98-07 of March 26, 1998:

"OTTAWA - The Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) today announced the licensing decisions taken following its meeting of March 24, 1998." [...]


The Board approved a nine-month extension to the operating licence for the Cluff Lake uranium mine, in northern Saskatchewan.

At the January 1998 Board meeting, AECB staff had recommended a renewal of the licence for a 13-month term, but this recommendation was changed in the staff's March 1998 report to the Board, following the receipt of the information concerning a recently detected increase in radium levels in Snake Lake, which is next to the facility's tailings management area.

A condition has been included in the licence requiring Cogema to investigate the cause of the increase, and to assess the impact of the increased radium levels on the environment. The company is also required to develop any necessary mitigative measures and a schedule for their implementation, and to report this information to the Board by June 30, 1998.

A number of other licence conditions were also added to address other AECB questions about the safe operation of the facility.

One of these conditions requires Cogema to supply information that demonstrates that the current radiation protection program for underground miners complies with the principle of keeping radiation exposures as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA). At the March 24 Board meeting, AECB staff recommended a three-month extension to its original recommendation of requiring this information by April 1, 1998. While Cogema has been addressing this issue, the extension will allow the company additional time to complete its studies, determine the effectiveness of proposed measures to reduce worker exposures, and identify those measures which will be implemented. If this required information is not submitted and approved by June 30, 1998, the condition would prevent any further underground mining activities at the site until the company's program is approved.

The Board also noted that the company had not submitted an acceptable revision to its Code of Practice that better reflects existing underground conditions and expectations regarding radiation protection. Since August 1997, Cogema has not been allowed to undertake any new mine development until an approved Code of Practice is in place. An approved Code of Practice is a requirement of the AECB's Uranium and Thorium Mining Regulations.

Another condition restricts the placement of mill tailings in the tailings management area to specific authorized limits.

Cogema has previously indicated that it plans to submit a proposal for additional tailings capacity at the site. Guidelines have been prepared for the required Environmental Impact Statement to be submitted by Cogema. The proposal will then undergo both a federal and a provincial environmental assessment. During the assessment process, activities in the tailings management area will be limited to those that are authorized by this extended licence. Any modification will need prior approval of the Board.

Finally, Cogema must appear before the Board at its October 1, 1998, meeting to report on its progress in dealing with the AECB's questions related to radiation protection, tailings management, and general project management."


AECB scathes Cogema's management of Cluff Lake uranium mine

The Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) has issued a scathing assessment of Cogema's management of the Cluff Lake underground mine, located 900 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon (Saskatchewan). A key concern for board officials is an increase in radiation exposure.
The board has demanded Cogema conduct a comprehensive study of dose reduction measures, begin radiation protection training courses for supervisors and implement an integrated safety and training program.
AECB officials have recommended board directors issue Cogema an unusual 13-month conditional operating licence at Cluff Lake with the condition the company improve radiation protection or stop mining by April 1. [Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Feb. 5 and 6, 1998]

The AECB staff recommendations re. Cogema's Cluff Lake operating license renewal were open for public comment until March 3, 1998. For a copy of the recommendations, or further information, contact the AECB in Ottawa at Tel. +1-613-995-5894, Fax: +1-613- 995-5086, E-mail: info@atomcon.gc.ca [AECB News Release 98-03, Feb. 6, 1998]


Proposed Additional Uranium Tailings Storage Capacity at Cluff Lake

Cogema Resources Inc. has proposed to construct and operate additional uranium tailings storage capacity at its Cluff Lake mine and milling operation. The additional tailings storage capacity is required to store tailings generated by the mining and milling of remaining Cluff Lake uranium ore. The Environmental Assessment Act requires Cogema Resources Inc. to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposed change and prepare and submit an Environmental Impact Statement for approval.
Saskatchewan Environment and Resource Management has prepared draft project-specific guidelines which identify environmental concerns. (View SERM notice )

Cogema has announced a decision to reduce Cluff Lake production from 5 million lbs U3O8 (1920tU) to 3.5 million lbs U3O8 (1350tU) per year beginning in 1998. Cluff Lake resources should then last until 2006. [UI News Briefing 98.04]

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