Environment & Safety

Safety

The Rabbit Lake operation is one of Canada's safest mining operations. Rabbit Lake has systematic programs to identify, evaluate and mitigate risks and engage all workers and managers in development of a strong safety culture. These programs follow the international OHSAS 18001 model and have delivered excellent safety performance.

Full-time equivalent dose

(mSv/yr)

  2020
Rabbit Lake 1.3

Radiation Protection

Radiation risks are effectively managed at Rabbit Lake through a formal radiation protection program and dedicated personnel who ensure that doses to workers are as low as reasonably achievable. The program ensures that radiation protection is considered in the physical design of all facilities and operating procedures. It also provides for systematic monitoring of radiation in work areas and tracking the exposures of individual workers using a combination of monitoring devices and health testing. Radiation exposures at Rabbit Lake are far below the regulated limits.

Environmental Protection

Environmental protection at the Rabbit Lake operation is assured through an ISO 14001-certified environmental management system. These programs ensure that the environmental aspects associated with the facilities are systematically identified, controlled and monitored.

Environmental Monitoring

Comprehensive monitoring programs are in place at the Rabbit Lake operation to help protect the surrounding environment. Samples of water, air, soil, plants and fish are collected from numerous locations around the site and tested to confirm that environmental protection systems are effective. Monitoring results are submitted to federal and provincial regulatory authorities for review. Cameco also supports independent regional monitoring downstream of its Saskatchewan operations to ensure there are no cumulative effects on the regional watershed. The extensive monitoring undertaken at Rabbit Lake has identified no significant impact on the surrounding environment.

Rabbit Lake Monitoring Results

Treated Water Quality — Arsenic

  Oct-19 Nov-19 Dec-19 Jan-20 Feb-20 Mar-20 Apr-20 May-20 Jun-20 Jul-20 Aug-20 Sep-20 Oct-20 Nov-20 Dec-20 Jan-21 Feb-21 Mar-21 Apr-21 May-21 Jun-21 Jul-21 Aug-21 Sep-21
Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations (mg/L) 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3
Rabbit Lake Level (mg/L) 0.0010 0.0009 0.0007 0.0006 0.0007 0.0007

0.0008

0.0010

0.0012

0.0014 0.0012 0.0010 0.0008 0.0008 0.0007 0.0007 0.0007 0.0007 0.0009 0.0011 0.0027 0.0023 0.0014 0.0011

Rabbit Lake Monitoring Results

Treated Water Quality — Copper

  Oct-19 Nov-19 Dec-19 Jan-20 Feb-20 Mar-20 Apr-20 May-20 Jun-20 Jul-20 Aug-20 Sep-20 Oct-20 Nov-20 Dec-20 Jan-21 Feb-21 Mar-21 Apr-21 May-21 Jun-21 Jul-21

Aug-21

Sep-21
Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations (mg/L) 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3
Rabbit Lake Level (mg/L) 0.0002 0.0001 0.0001 0.0001 0.0001 0.0001

0.0002

0.0003

0.0002

0.0002 0.0002 0.0002 0.0002 0.0002 0.0001 0.0001 0.0001 0.0002 0.0002 0.0003 0.0003 0.0003 0.0002 0.0002

Rabbit Lake Monitoring Results

Treated Water Quality — Lead

  Oct-19 Nov-19 Dec-19 Jan-20 Feb-20 Mar-20 Apr-20 May-20 Jun-20 Jul-20 Aug-20 Sep-20 Oct-20 Nov-20 Dec-20 Jan-21 Feb-21 Mar-21 Apr-21 May-21 Jun-21 Jul-21

Aug-21

Sep-21
Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations (mg/L) 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1
Rabbit Lake Level (mg/L) 0.0001 0.0001 0.0001 0.0001 0.0001 0.0001

0.0001

0.0001

0.0001

0.0001 0.0001 0.0001 0.0001 0.0001 0.0001 0.0001 0.0001 0.0001 0.0001 0.0001 0.0001 0.0001 0.0001 0.0001

Rabbit Lake Monitoring Results

Treated Water Quality — Nickel

  Oct-19 Nov-19 Dec-19 Jan-20 Feb-20 Mar-20 Apr-20 May-20 Jun-20 Jul-20 Aug-20 Sep-20 Oct -20 Nov-20 Dec-20 Jan-21 Feb-21 Mar-21 Apr-21 May-21 Jun-21 Jul-21

Aug-21

Sep-21
Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations (mg/L) 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5
Rabbit Lake Level (mg/L) 0.0011 0.0011 0.0011 0.0010 0.0011 0.0011

0.0014

0.0016

0.0015

0.0013 0.0013 0.0012 0.0014 0.0012 0.0012 0.0012 0.0012 0.0013 0.0015 0.0018 0.0026 0.0018 0.0010 0.0011

Rabbit Lake Monitoring Results

Treated Water Quality — Zinc

  Oct-19 Nov-19 Dec-19 Jan-20 Feb-20 Mar-20 Apr-20 May-20 Jun-20 Jul-20 Aug-20 Sep-20 Oct-20 Nov-20 Dec-20 Jan-21 Feb-21 Mar-21 Apr-21 May-21 Jun-21 Jul-21 Aug-21 Sep-21
Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations (mg/L) 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5
Rabbit Lake Level (mg/L) 0.0006 0.0006 0.0003 0.0003 0.0003 0.0003

0.0004

0.0006

0.0003

0.0004 0.0003 0.0003 0.0003 0.00025 0.00025 0.0002 0.0004 0.0002 0.0005 0.0016 0.0019 0.0012 0.0010 0.0010

Rabbit Lake Monitoring Results

Treated Water Quality — Suspended Solids

  Oct-19 Nov-19 Dec-19 Jan-20 Feb-20 Mar-20 Apr-20 May-20 Jun-20 Jul-20 Aug-20 Sep-20 Oct-20 Nov-20 Dec-20 Jan-21 Feb-21 Mar-21 Apr-21 May-21 Jun-21 Jul-21

Aug-21

Sep-21
Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations (mg/L) 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15
Rabbit Lake Level (mg/L) 0.9 0.9 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 4

Rabbit Lake Monitoring Results

Treated Water Quality — Radium-226

  Oct-19 Nov-19 Dec-19 Jan-20 Feb-20 Mar-20 Apr-20 May-20 Jun-20 Jul-20 Aug-20 Sep-20 Oct-20 Nov-20 Dec-20 Jan-21 Feb-21 Mar-21 Apr-21 May-21 Jun-21 Jul-21

Aug-21

Sep-21
Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations (Bq/L) 0.37 0.37 0.37 0.37 0.37 0.37 0.37 0.37 0.37 0.37 0.37 0.37 0.37 0.37 0.37 0.37 0.37 0.37 0.37 0.37 0.37 0.37 0.37 0.37
Rabbit Lake Level (Bq/L) 0.008 0.003 0.005 0.004 0.003 0.003

0.006

0.009

0.007

0.003 0.005 0.003 0.005 0.005 0.008 0.003 0.003 0.003 0.004 0.004 0.004 0.004 0.005 0.010

Rabbit Lake Monitoring Results

Treated Water Quality — pH

  Oct-19 Nov-19 Dec-19 Jan-20 Feb-20 Mar-20 Apr-20 May-20 Jun-20 Jul-20 Aug-20 Sep-20 Oct-20 Nov-20 Dec-20 Jan-21 Feb-21 Mar-21 Apr-21 May-21 Jun-21 Jul-21

Aug-21

Sep-21
Authorized Maximum pH 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5
Rabbit Lake Level pH 7.2 7.3 7.2 7.2 7.3 7.3 7.3 7.1 7.2 7.2 7.2 7.1 7.3 7.3 7.2 7.2 7.0 7.1 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.2 6.9
Authorized Minimum pH 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0

Rabbit Lake Monitoring Results

Treated Water Quality — Selenium

  Oct-19 Nov-19 Dec-19 Jan-20 Feb-20 Mar-20 Apr-20 May-20 Jun-20 Jul-20 Aug-20 Sep-20 Oct-20 Nov-20 Dec-20 Jan-21 Feb-21 Mar-21 Apr-21 May-21 Jun-21 Jul-21

Aug-21

Sep-21
Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment Limit (mg/L) 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6
Rabbit Lake Level (mg/L) 0.0025 0.0026 0.0025 0.0025 0.0024 0.0023

0.0022

0.0020

0.0025

0.0024 0.0026 0.0033 0.0030 0.0029 0.0028 0.0029 0.0028 0.0025 0.0025 0.0025 0.0023 0.0025 0.0025 0.0024

Rabbit Lake Monitoring Results

Treated Water Quality — Uranium

  Oct-19 Nov-19 Dec-19 Jan-20 Feb-20 Mar-20 Apr-20 May-20 Jun-20 Jul-20 Aug-20 Sep-20 Oct-20 Nov-20 Dec-20 Jan-21 Feb-21 Mar-21 Apr-21 May-21 Jun-21 Jul-21

Aug-21

Sep-21
Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment Limit (mg/L) 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5
Rabbit Lake Level (mg/L) 0.0390 0.0258 0.0252 0.0233 0.0185 0.0220

0.0238

0.0220

0.0228

0.0150

0.0125

0.0202 0.0333 0.0208 0.0206 0.0203 0.0208 0.0254 0.0233 0.0195 0.0184 0.0180 0.0108 0.0102

Rabbit Lake Monitoring Results

Treated Water Quality — Molybdenum

  Oct-19 Nov-19 Dec-19 Jan-20 Feb-20 Mar-20 Apr-20 May-20 Jun-20 Jul-20 Aug-20 Sep-20 Oct-20 Nov-20 Dec-20 Jan-21 Feb-21 Mar-21 Apr-21 May-21 Jun-21 Jul-21

Aug-21

Sep-21
Rabbit Lake Level (mg/L) 0.2354 0.2083 0.1798 0.1700 0.1665 0.1564

0.1673

0.1330

0.2084

0.2000 0.2353 0.2054 0.1740 0.2135 0.1796 0.1788 0.1785 0.1734 0.1838 0.1498 0.1660 0.2915 0.2912 0.2895

Rabbit Lake Monitoring Results

Treated Water Quality — Un-ionized Ammonia as Nitrogen

  Jun-21 Jul-21

Aug-21

Sep-21
Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations (mg/L)  0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5
Rabbit Lake Level (mg/L) 0.01 0.01 0.01 0.01

Rabbit Lake Monitoring Results

Ambient Air Quality – Annual Average Ambient Sulfur Dioxide (SO₂)  NOTE - Regulations replaced and standard revised on June 1, 2015; however for consistency, the old value is referenced for the 2015 reporting year. Reporting against the new value began in Q1 2016.

  2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment Standard (ppb) 10 10 10 10 8
Annual Average (ppb) 3.2 0.5 0.9 3.1 0.0009

Rabbit Lake Monitoring Results

Ambient Air Quality –  Annual Average Ambient Total Suspended Particulate (TSP)   NOTE - Regulations replaced and standard revised on June 1, 2015; however for consistency, the old value is referenced for the 2015 reporting year. Reporting against the new value began in Q1 2016.

  2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment Standard - see note (µg/m³) 70 70 70 70 60 60 60 60 60 60
Annual Average (µg/m³) 6.3 7.6 6.6 7.1 5.0 6.3 4.3 4.0 3.1 4.1

Rabbit Lake entered into a safe state of Care and Maintenance in early 2016.

Environmental Incidents and Other Events

Environmental incidents and other events are reported to regulatory agencies as required by federal and provincial regulations.

Latest incident or event:

Date August 25, 2021
Incident Reportable release
Details

At approximately 9:45 a.m., a propane release was discovered from the supply line to the Eagle Point sand dryer. Approximately 583 kg of propane gas was released to the atmosphere.

Corrective Action

The emergency response team (ERT) responded in accordance with emergency procedures, secured the area, restricted access and stopped the flow of propane at the tank. The cause of the release was found to be a failed pressure gauge, which has been replaced. Provincial and federal regulators were notified.

Environmental Effect 1

Past reporting

Date August 25, 2021
Incident Reportable release
Details

At approximately 9:45 a.m., a propane release was discovered from the supply line to the Eagle Point sand dryer.  Approximately 583 kg of propane gas was released to the atmosphere.  

Corrective Action

The emergency response team (ERT) responded in accordance with emergency procedures, secured the area, restricted access and stopped the flow of propane at the tank. The cause of the release was found to be a failed pressure gauge, which has been replaced. Provincial and federal regulators were notified.

Environmental Effect 1

 

Date July 9, 2021
Incident Fire Situation
Details

Following several days of hot dry temperatures, smoke was again observed in the late morning of July 9th in an area 5 km west of Rabbit Lake where a previous lightning strike had occurred. By early afternoon the fire had expanded and was observed moving in a westerly direction with moderate winds blowing from the northwest. 

Corrective Action

Following observation of smoke, communications were established with Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency and two water bombers were dispatched on the afternoon of July 9th. As a precautionary measure, Cameco placed sprinklers at the Effluent Treatment area for protection of critical infrastructure. Given the confirmed proximity of the location to Highway 905, both Cigar Lake and McClean Lake operations were notified. The Operation continues to monitor the situation closely.

Environmental Effect 2

 

Date July 8, 2021
Incident Fire Situation
Details

On July 8th, at approximately 9:00 pm, a lightning strike occurred in a forested area approximately 1.5 km south of the Eagle Point Mine and 400 m east of the haul road at Rabbit Lake. The lightning strike was followed by a small but observable plume of smoke, suggesting the possible ignition of a wildland fire.

Corrective Action

The Rabbit Lake Emergency Response Team was deployed to assess the situation, to conduct initial response, and to provide overnight observation. On the morning of July 9th, the Provincial Wildfire Branch in Stony Rapids was contacted and a four-person firefighting crew was dropped near the location and assisted the ERT with response. The provincial fire crew took over response as of 11:00 am. The fire situation is not currently posing a direct threat to the site but given the location and proximity to critical infrastructure, the Operation is monitoring the situation closely and will continue to evaluate threat level and response options.

Environmental Effect 2

 

Date May 29, 2021
Incident Reportable release
Details

On May 28th, during the annual start-up of the AGTMF pond (barge) pumping system, Mill Operations and Maintenance personnel noted the downstream flow meter was indicating a lower than expected flow and undertook an investigation which then identified a separation in the barge pipeline at one of the weld points. The line separation occurred within the Effluent Treatment (ET) line ditch approximately 112 m upgradient of ET Pond #1. An estimated 2.75 m3 of melt water from the AGTMF was released to the ditch as a result of this event.

Corrective Action

Barge pumping was immediately halted and an earthen berm was placed downgradient of the release point to prevent released water from entering directly into ET Pond #1. A vacuum truck was used to collect any water collected at this berm and at low points along the runoff path within the ET pipeline ditch. Spill socks were also deployed to recover water which had drained further downgradient of this berm, adjacent to ET Pond #1, and inaccessible to heavy equipment. Follow-up sampling was conducted to further inform reporting and mitigation measures. The event was reported to the Provincial Spill Control Line and CNSC Duty Officer.

Environmental Effect 2

 

Date May 26, 2021
Incident Reportable release
Details

During daily inspection rounds, it was noted that due to a cracked valve, a metal tote containing engine oil leaked to the ground at the Mill Pad 3 Laydown area. The 1200L of engine oil is over the reportable discharge limit (500L) and is therefore classified as a reportable discharge area.

Corrective Action

An earthen berm was placed to prevent any further migration of the released material. A vac truck was utilized to clean up any areas where any remaining oil was visible. Provincial and federal regulators were notified. notified.

Environmental Effect 2

 

Date May 11, 2021
Incident Reportable release
Details

Meltwater was released from the south-east perimeter berm of the B-Zone ore pad onto the adjacent roadway and area. A culvert, located in the perimeter ditch, was blocked by ice, impeding drainage to the downgradient collection sump and resulted in overflow to the surrounding area.

Corrective Action

A portion of the berm was rebuilt, water was removed from the perimeter road ditch and pumping was established to transfer water past the frozen culvert. Samples were collected for testing and reporting and additional inspections will be conducted for the remainder of the thaw period.  Provincial and federal regulators were notified.

Environmental Effect 1

Cameco Environmental Effect Rating

  • Level 1 - no measurable impact to the environment
  • Level 2 - negligible impact
  • Level 3 - short-term, seasonal impact
  • Level 4 - mortality of some species, but not affecting ecosystem function
  • Level 5 - impairment of ecosystem function
  • N/A - not applicable


Tailings Management

Tailings, or what remains of the ore after the uranium has been removed at the Rabbit Lake mill, is placed in the Rabbit Lake in-pit tailings management facility (RLITMF). The facility is built into the mined out Rabbit Lake pit and is designed to safely contain the tailings during continuing operations and after decommissioning. When operations cease, the tailings will become a dense mass and groundwater will flow through a previous envelope surrounding the tailings, rather than through them, to minimize environmental impact. Tailings from milling the original Rabbit Lake ore body are stored in an above-ground tailings management facility.

Decommissioning

Rabbit Lake has been in production since 1975. Five ore bodies have been mined on the site using open pit and underground methods. Inactive mining areas are reclaimed as part of continuing operations at Rabbit Lake under a site-wide reclamation plan. Detailed plans and financial guarantees are in place to provide for final decommissioning of the Rabbit Lake site when operations end. Decommissioning will include removal of all buildings and equipment and landscaping and re-vegetation of affected areas. All underground workings and other mine and mill facilities will be sealed off and secured. A monitoring program will be in place to ensure the sites remain in a secure and stable state for the long-term. For more information, see Preliminary Decommissioning Plan - Summary - Rabbit Lake Operation.

Environmental Risk Assessment

All new, or substantially changed, mining developments may be subject to environmental risk assessments (ERAs) to identify potential effects on the environment. ERAs follow guidance provided by CSA and various agencies, such as Health Canada (HC), Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

In 2020, Cameco completed a detailed quantitative environmental risk assessment (ERA) for its Rabbit Lake Operation to align with the standardized requirements found in CSA N288.6-12 Environmental risk assessment at Class I nuclear facilities and uranium mines and mills (CSA 2012). For parts of the site where there have not been many changes, a review of the most recent ERA was completed, in compliance with N288.6-12.

Public Summary - Environmental Risk Assessment - Rabbit Lake Operation (PDF 3.3 MB)

Regulatory Oversight

The primary regulator for the Rabbit Lake operation is the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). The mine is also subject to regulatory oversight from several other federal and provincial agencies including Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment. Federal and provincial regulators conduct regular site inspections and audits to verify that people and the environment are protected. Uranium mining and milling operations in Canada are licensed by the CNSC.

Sustainability at Cameco

When measuring the sustainability and ethical impact of a company, environmental, social and governance (ESG) are key factors considered by the public and investors. Sustainability and ESG matters have been an important focus at Cameco for many years and we have a strong performance record.

Learn more