33.8 Mlbs U3O8 (2011)
|Deposit Type||Unconformity associated hydrothermal uranium deposit|
|Reserves & Resources||
24Mlbs U3O8 at 0.73% U3O8 (December 2011)
Vertical blast-hole stoping
|Processing Method||Grinding, leaching, solvent extraction, crystallization|
|Mine Life||To 2017|
Drills, loaders, haul trucks
|Processing equipment||Crushers, grinders, uranium leaching & solvent extraction circuit|
|Employees||318 employees & 312 long-term contractors (2010)|
2121 - 11th St W
Last updated: July 12, 2012
Rabbit Lake is an underground uranium mine and mill facility located approximately 700 kilometers north of Saskatoon in the province of Saskatchewan, Canada.
Cameco Corporation and AREVA Resources Canada are the two uranium producers in Saskatchewan a province that produces all of Canada's uranium.
Rabbit Lake production began in 1975. Five orebodies have been mined at the site to produce more than 182.5 million pounds U3O8. Present day mining takes place underground at Eagle Point. Through successful exploration mine life has been extended through 2017.
The Rabbit Lake operation, which opened in 1975, is the longest operating uranium production facility in North America, and the second largest uranium mill in the world. It has a maximum licensed capacity of 16.9 million pounds.
In 2011, the mill produced 3.8 million pounds U3O8. Mill upgrades began in 2006 and are expected to be completed mid-2015.
Rabbit Lake uranium operation is located 700 km north of Saskatoon in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. The closest community is Wollaston Lake, about 40 kilometers by air.
Saskatchewan, the ‘swift flowing river’ in local Cree language, is rich in uranium, potash and other minerals. The province is a world leader in uranium production.
Rabbit Lake is considered to be an unconformity associated hydrothermal uranium deposit.
The Eagle Point orebodies are located within the Wollaston Structural Domain of the Churchill Province. The orebodies occur in a metasedimentary assemblage of Aphebian age unconformably overlying Archean granitoid gneisses.
Mineralization is controlled by two N-S faults. The Eagle Point North deposit is located in the hanging wall of the Eagle Point fault and consists of 3 known zones. Mineralization is controlled by steep mineral bearing fractures that coalesce in the central portion, forming the "massive ore" zone.
The Eagle Point South deposit lies in the hangingwall of the Collins Bay fault and the footwall of the Eagle Point fault. Mineralization is hosted in veins and stringers that are parallel to regional foliation. Ore is hosted in altered pegmatites.
Underground reserves at Rabbit Lake were estimated at 24.0 million pounds U3O8 with the ore having an average grade of 0.73% U3O8 (2011). Estimated resources were at 4.3 million pounds (indicated) at a 0.53% U3O8 average grade, and 10.4 million pounds (inferred) at 1.42% U3O8 average grade.
The deposits include the mined-out original Rabbit Lake open pit, the Collins Bay A–, B– and D–zones as well as the Eagle Point underground mine.
The original Rabbit Lake open pit was mined out in 1984 after producing
41 million pounds of uranium. It is now being used as a tailings
The mined-out Collins Bay zone orebodies was mined out in February 1991 after removing more than 36.5 million pounds of uranium. D-zone was mined out in April 1996 after removing more than 5.2 million pounds of uranium. A-zone was mined out in April 1997 after removing more than 17.3 million pounds of uranium.
Mining activities at Eagle Point were restarted in July 2002. The Eagle
Point orebody is 420 m underground in stable basement rock. The mining method
used is vertical blast-hole stoping with delayed backfill. Broken ore is
removed with remote-controlled scoop trams, operated from distances of 15 to 30
metres. The ore is then loaded on trucks and hauled to the Rabbit Lake
The orebody is located under Collins Bay in competent hard rock which provides a strong structure around the orebody. There is a minimum of 50 metres of rock between the mining area and the bottom of the lake.
The Rabbit Lake millhas a maximum licensed capacity of 16.9 million pounds.
Milling consists of the following basic steps:
- grinding which breaks the rock down to sand;
- acid leaching to dissolve the uranium;
- separation of uranium-rich solution from waste solids;
- solvent extraction to purify and concentrate the uranium solution;
- yellowcake precipitation and drying which recovers uranium as a crystal;
- packaging in steel drums;
- waste management.
Facilities at the Rabbit Lake are being renewed. Upgrades began in 2006 and are expected to be completed mid-2015.
The mill would continue to process ore produced at the Eagle Point underground deposit. Ongoing exploration has extended the estimated mine life of Eagle Point through to 2017.
The tailings facility is good through 2016 and it has to be expanded afterwards to accommodate more tailings.
Radiation doses for all workers at Rabbit Lake are well below allowable limits. Workers' cumulative gamma doses are recorded on radiation badges. Results are reported to the regulators and to Cameco employees.
Cameco also conducts an annual sampling program related to worker safety involving thousands of samples. The results of the sampling show that the workplaces are safe.
Rabbit Lake was the winner of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy
and Petroleum's John T. Ryan trophy for the best safety record for metal mines
in Canada in 2000.
Environmental monitoring ensures that emissions from operations are well below allowable limits. Monitoring results and environmental incidents are reported to federal and provincial regulatory agencies.
Tailings management to isolate and store the waste residue from the milling process so that people and the environment are protected. The tailings from the mill are deposited in the mined-out Rabbit Lake pit using the pervious surround method of tailings management.
In this system, the pit wall is lined with crushed rock and sand. Tailings are then placed into the pit. Water from the tailings is pumped out and returned to the mill for use in the milling process and the tailings become compacted. When the pit is filled, the tailings will be covered with a layer of sand and crushed rock and the lake water level will be restored. The compacted tailings will remain safely in the pit, below the bottom of the lake.
Groundwater will follow the path of least resistance and flow through the crushed rock and sand but not through the compacted tailings. The groundwater will not be contaminated because it flows around the tailings. Environmental impacts will be minimal. The results of environmental monitoring, after more than two decades of operation, show this disposal system is performing well, as predicted.
The estimated decommissioning cost of Rabbit Lake operations was calculated at $105.2 million.
As part of Cameco’s multi-year site-wide reclamation plan, they would spend over $2 million in 2012 to reclaim facilities that are no longer in use.
The uranium industry provides many jobs and promotes investment and economic development in the province.