- Cigar Lake is the world's highest grade uranium mine and is located in northern Saskatchewan, Canada.
- Since commissioning in 2014, the site has produced a total of 93 million pounds (100% basis). Commercial operation began in May 2015.
- As the operator, Cameco developed an innovative jet-boring technique specifically for this challenging deposit.
- Cigar Lake's ore is processed 70 km northeast, at the McClean Lake mill, operated by Orano.
2020 Q4 Update
Cigar Lake Production
Cameco's Share (million lbs)
|3 months ended
|2.8||2.7||5.0||9.0||up to 5.3|
Our share of production from Cigar Lake in the fourth quarter was 2.8 million pounds, 4% higher compared to the same period in 2019, while our share of production for the year was 5.0 million pounds, 44% lower than in 2019.
Impacts of COVID-19
Production was temporarily suspended twice in 2020 due to precautionary measures taken with the increasing risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
An initial suspension was announced in March 2020 with the operations moving to care and maintenance in April. In September we safely restarted the Cigar Lake mine. As planned, it took about two weeks to achieve initial production once the mine was restarted.
As announced in December 2020, production at the Cigar Lake mine was temporarily suspended again as a precautionary measure with a negative trend in the pandemic in Saskatchewan which created increased uncertainty for the continuous operation of the mine due to access to qualified operational personnel.
During the year, we
- substantially completed the extension of the underground electrical distribution system and commenced the extension of the underground piping infrastructure to support mining the west portion of the orebody
- executed planned annual maintenance activities during the first two weeks of September, prior to the safe restart of production following the five-month precautionary suspension of production due to the COVID-19 pandemic
- executed production activities from three production tunnels in the eastern part of the orebody
- expanded our ground freezing program ensuring continued frozen ore inventory growth in alignment with our long-term production plans
- completed a project looking at alternative mining methods that have potential to be utilized as alternatives to the underground jet boring system at Cigar Lake
In alignment with our production plans, underground mine development continued in 2020 between January to March and September to December. Development included focus on two new production panels in the eastern portion of the orebody along with initial access development towards the western portion. Development of the two production panels in the east were completed in 2020.
Development in the western portion of the orebody is planned for 2021, along with further development in the eastern portion of the orebody to ensure new production panels are available in alignment with long-term production plans.
Planning for the future
Our production and development plans for 2021 are uncertain as the Cigar Lake mine remains suspended and a restart of the operation and the production rate will be dependent on our ability to maintain safe and stable operating protocols along with a number of other factors, including how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the availability of the required workforce, how cases are trending in Saskatchewan, in particular in northern communities, and the views of the public health authorities.
As a result of the suspensions in production, we have also experienced delays and deferrals in project work, including lower capital expenditures, which introduces potential risk to the production rate in 2022.
While Cigar Lake is on care and maintenance, we expect to incur costs of between $8 million and $10 million per month, which will be expensed directly to cost of sales. We may also incur additional costs related to the purchase of uranium, which comes at a higher cost than our production.
In 2021, we plan to:
- continue surface freeze drilling and complete construction and commissioning of freeze distribution infrastructure expansion in support of future production
- continue underground mine development on two new production tunnels as well as expand ventilation and access drifts in alignment with the long-term mine plan
- substantially complete the expansion of the underground piping and infrastructure towards new production panels required to sustain production
Environment & Safety
Worker safety, protection of the environment and proper decommissioning after mining is completed, are of the utmost importance to Cameco.
Reserves & Resources
Our mineral reserves and resources are the foundation of our company and fundamental to our success.
Caution about forward-looking information
This page may contain forward-looking information that is based upon the assumptions and subject to the material risks discussed on page 2 of Cameco's most recent Quarterly MD&A.