Q4 2013 Update
NEW PRODUCTION AREAS
Production from the new zone...
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Total production from McArthur River/Key Lake was 20.1 million pounds, which is the highest annual output from a uranium facility anywhere in the world. Our share of production in 2013 was 14.1 million pounds U3O8, 4% higher than our forecast for the year, and 4% higher than annual production in 2012.
At McArthur River and Key Lake we realized benefits under the production flexibility provision in our operating licences (see Flexibility provisions below). Ongoing efforts to improve the efficiency and reliability of the Key Lake mill resulted in record mill performance.
Licensing and production capacity
On October 29, 2013, the CNSC granted a renewal of our McArthur River and Key Lake operating licences. The licence term is from November 1, 2013 to October 31, 2023.
As long as average annual production does not exceed 18.7 million pounds per year, production flexibility provisions in the licence conditions handbooks allow:
- the Key Lake mill to produce up to 20.4 million pounds (100% basis) per year
- the McArthur River mine to produce up to 21 million pounds (100% basis) per year
Our average annual production at McArthur River/Key Lake over the past five years is 19.7 million pounds. Consequently, we have limited flex capacity remaining under our licence provisions.
McArthur River production expansion
A limiting factor for production at the McArthur River mine is the licence limit of 18.7 million pounds (100% basis) per year, and in order to maintain the flexibility to produce more, we plan to request a production limit increase to 21 million pounds (100% basis) in 2014. This would match the currently approved maximum production level. We expect a decision on this increase in 2014.
In addition, we will continue the work to further increase our annual production rate to 22 million pounds (100% basis) by 2018, subject to regulatory approval, as contemplated in the revision to our mine plan in 2012.
We were notified by the CNSC that the environmental assessment for the planned increase in production to 22 million pounds would be transitioned to the CNSC licensing and compliance processes, rather than the federal environmental assessment process.
In order to implement the planned production increases, we must continue to successfully transition into new mine areas through mine development and investment in support infrastructure. In addition, we plan to:
- obtain all the necessary regulatory approvals, including at Key Lake, to ensure the mill can process all of the ore mined annually at McArthur River
- expand the freeze plant and electrical distribution systems
- increase ventilation by sinking a fourth shaft at the northern end of the mine
- improve our dewatering system and expand our water treatment capacity
New mining areas
We completed installation of the freezewall and brine lines in the upper mining area of zone 4 north. We began freezing the ground in the third quarter of 2013, with plans to start mining the zone in late 2014.
In addition to the underground work, we continued to upgrade our electrical infrastructure on surface to address the future need for increased ventilation and freeze capacity associated with mining new zones and increasing mine production.
In 2013, our surface exploration programs continued to test zones of mineralization north of the current mining areas.