Inkai is a very significant uranium deposit, located in Kazakhstan. There are two production areas (blocks 1 and 2) and an exploration area (block 3). The operator is joint venture Inkai limited liability partnership, which we jointly own (60%) with Kazatomprom (40%).
Inkai is one of our three material uranium properties.
|End product||Uranium concentrates|
|Certifications||BSI OHSAS 18001
ISO 14001 certified
|Estimated reserves (our share)||50.4 million pounds (proven and probable),
average grade U3O8: 0.07%
|Estimated resources (our share)||
28.3 million pounds (indicated), average grade U3O8: 0.08%
146.3 million pounds (inferred), average grade U3O8: 0.05%
|Mining methods||In situ recovery (ISR)|
|Licensed capacity (wellfields)||
5.2 million pounds per year,
(our share 3.0 million pounds per year)
|Total production: 2008 to 2013
|12.0 million pounds|
|2013 production (our share)||3.0 million pounds (5.2 million pounds on 100% basis)|
|2014 forecast production
|3.0 million pounds (5.2 million pounds on 100% basis)|
|Estimated decommissioning cost
|$14 million (US)|
Production this year was slightly higher than our forecast for the year and 15% higher than production in 2012. Inkai added new wellfields to the production mix, which increased the head grade and resulted in higher 2013 production.
In December 2013, Inkai received government approval of an amendment to the resource use contract to increase production from blocks 1 and 2 to 5.2 million pounds (100% basis). Our share of Inkai’s annual production is 3.0 million pounds with the processing plant at full capacity.
We have a loan agreement with Inkai whereby we funded Inkai’s project development costs. As of December 31, 2013, there was $103 million (US) of principal outstanding on the loan. In 2013, Inkai paid $2.7 million (US) in interest on the loan and repaid $30 million (US) of principal.
Under the loan agreement, Inkai first uses cash available every year to pay accrued interest. Inkai then uses 80% of the remaining cash available for distribution to repay principal outstanding on the loan. The remaining 20% is distributed as dividends to the owners.
We are also currently advancing funds for Inkai’s work on block 3. As of December 31, 2013, the block 3 loan principal amounted to $118 million (US).
Uranium conversion project and doubling production update
In 2012, we entered into a binding memorandum of agreement (2012 MOA) with our joint venture partner, Kazatomprom, setting out a framework to:
- increase Inkai’s annual production from blocks 1 and 2 to 10.4 million pounds (our share 5.2 million pounds) and sustain it at that level
- extend the term of Inkai’s resource use contract through 2045
Kazatomprom is pursuing a strategic objective to develop uranium processing capacity in Kazakhstan to complement its leading uranium mining operations. The 2012 MOA builds on the non-binding memorandum of understanding signed in 2007, which sought to align the annual production increase with the development of uranium conversion capacity. Kazatomprom’s primary focus is now on uranium refining, which is an intermediate step in the uranium conversion process.
We expect to pursue further expansion of production at Inkai at a pace measured to market opportunities. We are continuing to work on an assessment of the production increase, and in December 2013, we also completed the first draft of a prefeasibility study (PFS) for the potential construction of a uranium refinery in Kazakhstan. Cameco and Kazatomprom will determine if a feasibility study is justified based on the outcome of the refinery PFS. Advancement to the feasibility stage will require government approvals for the transfer of our proprietary uranium refining technology from Canada to Kazakhstan. An NCA between Canada and Kazakhstan was signed in 2013, providing the international framework necessary for applying to the two governments for the required licences and permits.
Block 3 exploration
In 2013, Inkai:
- completed exploration drilling
- continued construction of the test leach facility and test wellfields
- started work on an appraisal of mineral potential according to Kazakhstan standards
Planning for the future
We expect our share of production to be 3.0 million pounds in 2014 from blocks 1 and 2. We expect to maintain production at this level until the potential expansion under the 2012 MOA proceeds.
Block 3 exploration
In 2014, Inkai expects to:
- complete construction of the test leach facility and test wellfields
- start operation of the test wellfields and begin uranium production with the test leach facility
- complete a preliminary appraisal and continue to work on a final appraisal of mineral potential according to Kazakhstan standards
Managing our risks
Supply of sulphuric acid
There were no interruptions to sulphuric acid supply during 2013. Given the importance of sulphuric acid to Inkai’s mining operations and shortages in previous years, we continue to closely monitor its availability. Our production may be less than forecast if there is a shortage.
Kazakhstan declared itself independent in 1991 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Our Inkai investment and our plans to increase production are subject to the risks associated with doing business in developing countries, which have significant potential for social, economic, political, legal and fiscal instability. Kazakh laws and regulations are complex and still developing and their application can be difficult to predict. To maintain and increase Inkai production, we need ongoing support, agreement and co-operation from our partner and the government.
The principal legislation governing subsoil exploration and mining activity in Kazakhstan is the Subsoil Use Law dated June 24, 2010. It replaces the Law on the Subsoil and Subsoil Use, dated January 27, 1996.
In general, Inkai’s licences are governed by the version of the subsoil law that was in effect when the licences were issued in April 1999, and new legislation applies to Inkai only if it does not worsen Inkai’s position. Changes to legislation related to national security, among other criteria, however, are exempt from the stabilization clause in the resource use contract. The Kazakh government interprets the national security exemption broadly.
With the 2010 subsoil law, the government continues to weaken its stabilization guarantee. The government is broadly applying the national security exception to encompass security over strategic national resources.
The resource use contract contains significantly broader stabilization provisions than the 2010 subsoil law, and these contract provisions currently apply to us.
To date, the 2010 subsoil law has not had a significant impact on Inkai. We continue to assess the impact. See our annual information form for an overview of this change in law.
We also manage the risks listed here.