Saskatchewan Exploration and Development Highlights 2018: A look at Uranium

By the Saskatchewan Geological Survey (SGS) – Saskatchewan Ministry of Energy and Resources

Saskatchewan produced approximately 22 per cent of the world’s primary uranium supply in 2017. Production came from two operations that totalled 34.1 million pounds (M lb) U3O8. The majority, 18M lb U3O8, came from the Cigar Lake (operator Cameco Corporation [Cameco]) – McClean Lake (operator Orano Canada Inc [Orano]) operation. Production from the McArthur River – Key Lake operation (operator Cameco) totaled 16.1 M lb U3O8. Total production for 2018 is fore-cast to be 18.2M lb U3O8, of which 18 M lb will be from the Cigar Lake – McClean Lake operation and only 0.2M lb from the McArthur River – Key Lake operation, which has been placed under care and maintenance. In August 2018, Cameco announced that the planned 10-month shut-down at the McArthur River – Key Lake operation had been extended indefinitely due to weak market conditions. The Rabbit Lake (Cameco) operation continues to be in a safe state of care and maintenance. In spite of challenging economic conditions in the industry, uranium exploration remains robust in the province, with actual expenditures of $135.1M in 2017 and anticipated spending of $119.2M in 2018. Major programs have continued in both the eastern and southwestern Athabasca Basin. In the southwest, activity is mainly focused in the Patterson Lake region, where Fission Uranium Corp. (Fission) announced an updated Resource Estimate for its Triple R deposit, which now includes the R1515W, R840W, R00E, R780E and R1620E zones.

The total Resource Estimate contains 140.61M lb U3O8, with 87.76M lb U3O8 in the Indicated Mineral Resource category (based on 2,186,000 tonnes of ore at an average grade of 1.82 per cent U3O8) and 52.85M lb U3O8 in the Inferred Mineral Resource category (based on 1,331,000 tonnes of ore at an average grade of 1.80 per cent U3O8). The high-grade, R780E zone represents almost half of the Resource, containing 48.246M lb U3O8 grading 18.39 per cent, and 14.710M lb U3O8 grading 20.85 per cent in the Indicated and Inferred categories, respectively. Compared with the previous Mineral Resource, released July 28, 2015, the new Resource represents a 95 per cent increase in pounds U3O8 classified as Inferred and an eight per cent increase in pounds U3O8 classified as Indicated. Northeast of Fisson is NexGen Energy Ltd.’s (NexGen) Rook I property, which hosts the Arrow deposit. A Re-source estimate completed in 2017 comprised an Indicated Resource containing 179.5M lb U3O8 grading 6.88 per cent, which includes an enriched portion of the deposit that contains 164.9M lb U3O8 grading 18.84 per cent. An additional 122.1M lb U3O8 grading 1.3 per cent re-mains in the Inferred Resource category. Just to the east of NexGen’s property, Purepoint Uranium Group, operator of the Hook Lake joint venture with partners Cameco and Orano, continues to explore the Spitfire deposit.

On the east side of the Athabasca Basin, Denison Mines Corp. (Denison) has agreed to acquire 100 per cent of Cameco’s interest in the Wheeler River joint venture (JV). The acquisition will increase Denison’s interest in the project to 90 per cent (or 86.84 per cent if remaining JV partner, JCU (Canada) Exploration Company Limited, exercises its right of first refusal). Denison also published an updated Resource Estimate for the Gryphon de-posit, which now contains 61.9M lb U3O8 in an Indicated Mineral Resource, with a further 1.9M lb U3O8 in the Inferred Mineral Resource category. The combined Indicated Mineral Resources for Wheeler River, which includes both the Phoenix and Gryphon deposits, is 132.1M lb U3O8, an 88 per cent increase from the previous estimate. Since the Resource estimate was published, new mineralization was intersected up to one kilometre northeast of the Gryphon uranium deposit, suggesting that this deposit is larger than currently outlined. New mineralization has been found at Denison’s Waterbury project, about 40 kilometres northeast of the Cigar Lake mine. The new uranium occurrence, called the Huskie zone, is near the Midwest uranium deposits. Denison (joint venture partners Orano and OURD Canada Co. Ltd.) announced an updated Mineral Resource Estimate for the Mid-west uranium project. This new Resource Estimate includes uranium mineralization from the Midwest Main and Midwest A deposits, for combined totals of 50.78M lb contained U3O8 in the Indicated Mineral Resource category and 18.2M lb contained U3O8 in the Inferred Mineral Re-sources category. In other development news, Rio Tinto has decided to cease exploration at the Roughrider deposit, which is located a few kilometres north-east of the Midwest deposits.

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