Quite a few experts have doubted how soon Cigar Lake can start production, if it ever will.
SXR's CEO interview is quite interesting.
NEAL FRONEMAN (CEO of SXR): Well, at Cigar Lake they�re mining in sandstone. It�s a very difficult mining operation. They were still developing the mine, and the sandstone contains water, and they have to freeze the water around where they mine. They lost the freezing ability, they had a ground collapse, the mine flooded, and now it is just about impossible to de-water that mine and seal it off.
I suspect ISL would not be a feasible option for Cigar Lake. I think it works best on deposits that have high permeability (hydraulic conductivity, actually), and where that permeability is pretty uniformly distributed. For the Cigar Lake deposits to have reached the grade they did, having undergone repeated enrichment cycles, the alteration of those sandstones must be intense. That should have gunked up the aquifer pretty well, making it difficult reach a large part of the deposit volume with the leaching solution, and producing poor recoveries. ISL should work best on deposits like the ones Ur-Energy has in Wyoming, which are in pretty permeable sandstones that allow the leaching solution to efficiently come into contact with the whole aquifer/deposit volume, but that are too low-grade to mine conventionally. Cheers, voxx9
ISL can be used for permeable sand or sandstones, which is surrounded by some inpenetrable substance (ie: clay)
Cigar lakes deposit is surrounded by clay and is below the water table...however it is very deep. Im not sure if it is too deep for ISL.
Heres an interesting article about ISL and also some details on Camecos Cigar lake flood.
I heard this from a knowledgeable (do not read as 'reliable') source, with many years of experience and who knows the management of several key U CO's.
"Cigar will never go into production until U3O8 is a lot higher..
There is a he*ll of a water incursion and they are not even permitted to process that flow of water..Their permit is only for 1500 Gallons /Min. and the leak rate is over 3000GPM,so even to get the permitting upgraded may be a sticker...that is even before they fix the leak....And that involves freezing the ground with mechanical refrigeration ammonia equipment,..To freeze that area of the leak would take so much power that it would jack the cost of production so high that they will put it off till U3O8 is $100.00/lb. at least ,so look for a delay for U3O8 production from Cigar Lake..if ever.... "
Thanks for the link.
Methinks Mr. Froneman has overstated the difficulty of mining uranium. He talks as though the Cigar Lake flooding is common, with many more such incidents likely to occur, (but not with his company). Do you suppose he is familiar with ISL?
The structure of the contracts they're signing is interesting, though - there is a pricing floor but no ceiling. Right now the miners have the upper hand in negotiations, but it is a window of time not likely to last too many years, as new supplies come onstream. But while the good times roll for miners, won't that approach be an incredible boon for capital-hungry juniors whose banks require hedging?
Best of success.