Inauguration of exceptional mines in northern Canada
May 31, 2000
COGEMA has just inaugurated two uranium mines, McArthur River and McClean Lake, in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Representing an investment of nearly Euros 610 million (4 billion French francs) for the COGEMA Group, the competitiveness of these mines on the world uranium market is guaranteed by the size and wealth of the deposits: about 100 kg of uranium per ton of ore, compared with average assays of 1 to 10 kg for usual deposits.
Because of the high uranium content of the ores, the mining demanded the development of highly innovative mining and ore beneficiation technologies. Extracted by open pit mining, the McClean Lake deposit has about 20,000 tons of reserves. COGEMA is the operator and the principal shareholder (70%), alongside Denison Mines Limited (22.5%) and OURD Co Ltd (7.5%). The mill is one of the world's biggest with an annual production capacity of 2,300 tons.
Radiological protection was a major concern in determining the architecture of the installation, designed to treat very rich ores, and in choosing the tailings management system. With over 180,000 tons of uranium reserves, the McArthur River (70% CAMECO, 30% COGEMA) high assay deposit is the biggest of its type in the world. Total production expected in 2000 will be more than 4,000 tons, and it is planned to boost the figure to nearly 7,000 tons in the coming years.
Mining of the ore more than 500 meters underground, with an average assay of 130 kg of uranium per ton, is fully remote controlled to prevent miners from coming into direct contact with the ore. COGEMA is one of the world's two leading uranium producers, with total production of about 6,000 tons per year, nearly 20% of world production.
With the inauguration of these two mines, further reinforcing the Group's presence in Canada (world's No. 1 uranium producer) and adding to its other production capacities (especially in Niger), the year 2000 marks a new step in the growth of COGEMA's mining operations.