Ventilation Demand at the World’s Highest Grade Uranium Mine: A Look at the Role of Technology and Innovation

2017

Mr Mhula Kitindi ( - Cameco Corporation)

The need for clean energy has become a major topic of discussion around the world. One way of ensuring a clean environment while boosting the world economy is through the production of nuclear energy. Historically, over 50% of uranium production came from underground mines mainly through conventional mining methods. However, underground mines with significantly higher ore grades than ever before are being discovered, constructed, and mined using various underground techniques. The Cigar Lake project in northern Saskatchewan, Canada, entered into commercial production in 2014. The underground mine currently holds the top spot as the world’s highest grade uranium mine with average ore grade of approximately 16.7%U3O8. The high ore grade in conjunction with other geotechnical issues, makes conventional underground mining at Cigar Lake impractical. To mine the deposit economically while minimizing the exposure of personnel to radiation, an innovative Jet Boring System (JBS) mining method along with a well-engineered ventilation system were developed. The JBS was developed to allow workers to extract ore from a secure horizon below the orebody, safe from gamma and airborne radiation. This paper attempts to demonstrate how the JBS technology has enabled the recovery of Cigar’s high grade uranium ore with a relatively low demand and economic ventilation system.
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