Going Deep Underground: Cameco and AREVA Uranium Mine and Mills Tour

This is a guest blog by the CNA’s Regulatory Affairs Officer, Matthew Hickman. Looks like it was a great tour at a truly impressive set of facilities!

AREVA’s McClean Lake mill in northern Saskatchewan is the only facility in the world capable of processing high-grade uranium ore without diluting it.

On June 13, 2012 AREVA and Cameco hosted the staff and Board of Directors of the Canadian Nuclear Association on a tour of their mining facilities in northern Saskatchewan.  Tour participants had the incredible opportunity to see the mining and milling operations at the McArthur River uranium mine and McClean Lake mill.

 

The day started at AREVA’s McClean Lake site after a quick flight from Saskatoon. The McClean Lake site is located approximately 700 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon, and is comprised of several uranium mines and the newest, most technologically advanced uranium mill in North America.  Our tour guide Glenn was very knowledgeable and provided us with a tour of the entire uranium milling process, from extraction to final packaging.  The milling facility was as impressive as it was complex and the safety features and processes were evident.

Cameco's McArthur River Operation: The main McArthur River head frame houses the hoist over the main (Pollock) shaft which deliver miners and equipment as deep as 680 metres below surface.

 

Our next stop was the Cameco McArthur River site, which is also located within the Athabasca Basin approximately 60 kilometers west from the McClean Lake site.  The first thing that stuck out to me was the small footprint of the entire mining operation – only about 4 square kilometers.  Equally fascinating was that the McArthur River site is the world’s largest high-grade uranium mine, with the average ore grade of 16.89%.

The primary themes that I have extracted from this tour are the unique and innovative mining techniques, employee pride and evident safety culture.  I can definitely say that the tour surpassed my expectations and would highly recommend it to anyone if they ever have the opportunity.  Finally, I would like to graciously thank our hosts, AREVA and Cameco for providing such an amazing opportunity to the CNA.

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