Cigar Lake nears startup as uranium price recovers – by Pav Jordan Globe and Mail – March 6, 2013)

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Cameco Corp. is just months away from opening its Cigar Lake uranium project, the world’s second-largest high-grade uranium deposit, more than thirty years after it was discovered and just as global prices for the nuclear fuel show promise of a rebound.

“We’re on track with Cigar Lake. We said we’d be starting the mining in mid-2013 and we will and we’ll have first production from the mill in 2013,” said Tim Gitzel, chief executive officer of the Saskatchewan-based owner of uranium projects in Canada, the United States, Australia and Kazakhstan.

“It’s been a long project. A long time. That ore body was discovered in 1981 and here we are now, not decades or years but mere months away from first production, so we’re pretty excited about it,” he said on the sidelines of the annual Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) conference in Toronto.

Cigar Lake will supply uranium for some 20 or 30 years. Cameco, the world’s biggest publicly traded uranium producer, is the 50 per cent owner of the northern Saskatchewan mine, which has ore grades that are among the world’s highest, at 100 times the world average.

It will come on stream at a time when the industry is eyeing a recovery in prices that have been depressed for nearly two years, when a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit Japan in March, 2011, forcing the shutdown of some nuclear power plants around the world amid renewed fears about safety.

The tsunami saw Japan shut 50 nuclear plants and debate a complete eradication of nuclear power after the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986 and the Three Mile Island accident in the United States in 1979. It took a change in government to put the nuclear program back on track, although under stringent new guidelines, some of which are still being worked out.

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