Operations & Partnerships

McClean Lake

McClean Lake is Orano’s flagship Canadian operation.

Located in northern Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin over 750 kilometres north-east of Saskatoon, the operation boasts the most technologically advanced uranium mill in the world for the processing of high-grade uranium ore without dilution.

Since its initial commissioning, the mill has achieved a production of over 69 million pounds of uranium concentrate. In 2016 alone, the mill processed a record 17.3 million pounds. Orano's share of this production totaled 6.4 million pounds.

The increase in total production, compared to its early years, which produced about six million pounds annually, is due to the construction of a multi-million dollar upgrade and expansion of the mill.

With the expansion, the mill now has a total annual production capacity of 24 million pounds of uranium ore concentrate, of which a planned 18 million pounds annually are dedicated to processing all ore from the Cigar Lake mine and the remaining capacity may potentially be used in the future for new ore from McClean Lake and other nearby uranium deposits.

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Health & Safety

Safety is the foundation of Orano Canada's culture and we are committed to protecting the health and safety of our employees and contractors at the McClean Lake mill and throughout our activities on and off site. Ongoing initiatives through communication and training are imperative to maintain a safe workplace.

Radiation Protection

Mine and mill site employees at McClean Lake wear radiation dosimeters. These devices measure employees' radiation exposure. The radiation dosimeters are analyzed by an independent lab and radiation exposure results are provided directly to the workers, the federal and provincial regulators, and Orano.

We are committed to maintaining radiation exposure as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA), as illustrated by our workers’ radiation exposure results, which are consistently well below regulatory limits.

Emergency Response Team

The members of Orano's Emergency Response Team (ERT) go above their regular duties to train, study and prepare for emergency response situations. To put their training into practice, the McClean Lake ERT competes at the annual Saskatchewan Mining Association's Mine Rescue Competition. They are fully trained in firefighting, first aid/CPR, and rescue operations involving various hazardous situations.

Health & Emergency Facilities

Due to the remoteness of the McClean Lake operation, the site is equipped with emergency response equipment and medical facilities with a nurse or emergency medical technician always available. Air ambulance services are available 24/7 in case of emergencies.

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Environment

Our commitment to environmental sustainability is demonstrated by our efforts to minimize the interactions of our projects and activities with the environment and by the comprehensive environmental monitoring of air, water, sediment, soil, flora and fauna surrounding the McClean Lake site.

The protection, mitigation and monitoring of potential effects on the environment are considered before any project is constructed and maintained throughout the operation, and also after shutdown during the decommissioning phase.

Monitoring

Orano's framework of policies, monitoring programs and procedures ensure that emissions and potential effects from the McClean Lake operation remain as low as reasonably achievable.

Monitoring at the McClean Lake Operation (call-out box)
323- Total sample locations
22- Lakes sampled annually

We also fund independent monitoring through community programs in partnership with the Province of Saskatchewan and our joint venture partner Cameco Corporation. For more information on the community based environmental monitoring programs we support, visit our Northern Presence Community page.

Water

Orano places a strong emphasis on the protection of surface water quality within its overall environmental protection program.

At the McClean Lake operation, the mill uses water for the processing of uranium ore, while rain, snow and runoff water come into contact with our mine area. Once in contact with our activities, the water requires treatment.

    We use a three stage approach for water treatment:
  • Hydroxide Precipitation: A high pH is used for the removal of heavy metals.
  • Radium Arsenic Removal: A low pH is used to remove radium, arsenic and molybdenum.
  • Radium Polishing: The pH is adjusted to a near neutral level to reduce Total Suspended Solids (TSS) prior to discharge.

Before the treated water is released back into the environment, it is tested to make sure it meets all of our regulatory quality requirements. This water is called Treated Effluent.

Treated Effluent is released into the Sink/Vulture Treated Effluent Management System (S/V-TEMS) – a central system to control and manage the release of treated effluent into the east basin of McClean Lake. From here, the water flows to Collins Creek and off the McClean Lake Surface Lease.

The release of treated effluent is managed to meet the Saskatchewan Surface Water Quality Objectives as it flows off the surface lease. From this point, Collins Creek travels about 33 kilometres downstream until it reaches Wollaston Lake. The nearest communities, the Hatchet Lake First Nation and Wollaston Post are a further 40 kilometres across the lake.

Tailings

Tailings are waste products resulting from milling uranium ore. At McClean Lake, the JEB Tailings Management Facility (TMF) serves as our repository for all processing tailings. The facility allows proper waste management that minimizes potential adverse environmental effects. The McClean Lake TMF has been in operation since the mill opened in 1999.

Air

Within the McClean Lake mill, air flows and ventilation considerations were part of the design of the mill to ensure good air quality for the protection of workers’ health. The air within the facility is constantly monitored and any occasional upsets are addressed immediately.

We also monitor the air quality outside near the McClean Lake mill. Air emissions at the mill are consistently below regulatory limits.

One of nuclear energy's biggest advantages is that it emits a very small amount of greenhouse gasses; at McClean Lake we do everything we can to minimize our CO2 emissions.

Wildlife

It is a top priority for us to not disturb wildlife. We know that wildlife is often a key part of survival for northern people, which is why we have done extensive baseline wildlife monitoring around the McClean Lake operation. We continue to monitor wildlife activity around the site and have measures in place to protect wildlife and their habitat.

For example, when a bear comes into the McClean Lake camp, we neutralize it and transport it for release away from the operation.

Read our McClean Lake Quarterly Environmental Monitoring fact-sheets  or request our Environmental Performance Technical Information Documents here.

Independent Monitoring Programs

Community-led environmental monitoring programs sample water near each of the Athabasca Basin communities and continue to show that the surface water quality is meeting all provincial objectives. We are confident that by ensuring we meet water quality objectives far upstream of the Athabasca Basin communities, we are doing our part to maintain excellent water quality in the region.

Eastern Athabasca Regional Monitoring Program (EARMP)

The EARMP is an independent environmental monitoring program funded by the Province of Saskatchewan in partnership with AREVA Resources Canada and Cameco. The EARMP is comprised of a community program and a technical program. The objective of the community program is to ensure the safety of traditionally harvested foods by monitoring and testing foods gathered by communities in the eastern Athabasca region of northern Saskatchewan. The technical program was designed to provide long-term environmental data and identify potential cumulative impacts downstream of uranium mining and milling operations.

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Regulatory

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) approved the renewal of McClean Lake’s operating licence for a period of ten years, from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2027. The CNSC regulates all nuclear-related facilities and activities in Canada.

Its mission is “To regulate the use of nuclear energy and materials to protect health, safety and security of Canadians and the environment, and to implement Canada’s international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy; and to disseminate objective scientific, technical and regulatory information to the public.”

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Orano’s activities are also regulated by provincial agencies such as the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Labour.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment provides the provincial approval to operate the McClean Lake Operation. The current approval’s term started October 30, 2017 and will expire on October 31, 2023. This approval authorizes Orano to operate Pollutant Control Facilities such as the McClean Lake mill, tailings management facility, Sue mines sites and the Sink-Vulture Treated Effluent Management System.

It also provides authorization to operate air pollution monitoring and/or abatement equipment, sewage treatment facilities, landfills for the disposal of contaminated, industrial and domestic waste and incinerators, as well as waste rock stockpile for the remediation of hydrocarbon contaminated soil and hazardous substances and waste dangerous goods storage facilities associated with the McClean Lake Operation.

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Take a tour of Orano's McClean Lake Operation through the following videos

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Cigar Lake

The McClean Lake mill currently receives all the ore it processes from the Cigar Lake mine at an average grade of 18%. The McClean Lake mill and Cigar Lake mine form an efficient tandem operation.

The Cigar Lake underground mine, operated by Cameco Corporation, is located 80 kilometres from the McClean Lake operation. The orebody is at a depth of 450 metres and stretches for two kilometres.

Ore is ground up and thickened in underground processing circuits and pumped to the surface in slurry form.

At the surface, the ore is loaded into special containers and transported by truck to the McClean Lake mill for processing. The Cigar Lake mine is the world’s highest-grade uranium mine with grades 100 times higher than average.

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Ownership Structure

McClean Lake

Orano: 70%
Denison Mines Inc: 22.5%
OURD Canada Co. Ltd: 7.5%
Operator: Orano

Cigar Lake

Orano: 37.1%
Cameco Corporation: 50.025%
Idemitsu Uranium Exploration Canada Ltd: 7.875%
TEPCO Resources Inc: 5%
Operator: Cameco

McArthur River / Key Lake

Orano owns 30% of the McArthur River mine and 17% of the Key Lake mill. Both operations are operated by Cameco.

The McArthur River mine is the highest grade uranium mine in the world and the world’s largest high-grade uranium underground mine in terms of production. Ore from the mine is processed at the Key Lake mill.

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Ownership Structure

McArthur River

Orano: 30.2%
Cameco Corporation: 69.8%
Operator: Cameco Corporation

Key Lake

Orano: 16.7%
Cameco Corporation: 83.3%
Operator: Cameco Corporation

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Public relations

phone: 1 (306) 343-4500
oc-publicrelations@orano.group

Community Investment

Orano’s community investment pillar is primarily focused on community initiatives and organizations in the regions near our operations and activities or where our employees reside. Orano also provides scholarships for post-secondary students from northern Saskatchewan.

Incident Notification

This information notifies the public of incidents that may be important to them, remedial actions undertaken, and their potential effect on health, safety and the environment.

Mining operations

The group holds a broad portfolio of mines in operation (Canada, Kazakhstan and Niger), as well as projects under development (Africa).