BY RICHARD GILBERT - The Saskatchewan government has given the green light to Cameco Corporation for the construction of a new uranium mine located in the northern part of the province.
“I have concluded that any adverse environmental effects associated with the Cameco Corporation Millennium Project can be eliminated or minimized,” said the Minister of Environment ,Ken Cheveldayoff, in a decision statement. Cameco’s environmental impact assessment was approved by the ministry last month.
It concluded that the adverse effects of the proposed project can be minimized and benefits enhanced with the implementation of mitigation and environmental protection measures.
Cheveldayoff said this conclusion is based on Cameco’s commitments as outlined in the environmental impact statement; on the ability of the minister of environment to impose specific conditions at this time; and on the knowledge that additional environmental protection requirements can be imposed through further permits and licences required by provincial legislation.
Cameco is proposing to develop an underground uranium mine 600 km north of Saskatoon in the southeastern part of the Athabasca Basin.
The proposed Millennium Mine would produce 150,000 to 200,000 tonnes of ore annually for six to seven years.
Ore and associated waste materials would be transported to a licensed mill along a new 21 km access road that would connect to the existing road network.
Other components of the project include the development and operation of an underground mine and temporary surface facilities to support construction and operation, as well as permanent storage of clean waste rock from mine development on the surface.
Workers will be housed in camp facilities at the Key Lake operation during construction and operation. Cameco is planning to transport ore and mineralized waste rock for processing or storage to the Key Lake operation, which is about 36 km southwest of the Millennium site.
It won’t include the construction of a mill and associated waste management facilities, which will reduce the environmental footprint of the operation and decommissioning requirements.
The processing of ore, and management of tailings and other waste materials, will be considered under separate regulatory applications associated with the receiving facilities.
The potential adverse impacts on the environment include surface disturbance at the mine site and for the construction of the access road; water and wastewater management; handling of ore product; and transportation of ore and mine waste.
Cameco is committed to ensuring an environmental monitor is onsite during all site clearing and preparation activities to identify plant and wildlife species at risk. If species at risk are observed prior to and/or during site clearing activities, that area will either be avoided or appropriate mitigation will be considered.
The proposed mine will install a water intake in Slush Lake to withdraw water for mine processes and domestic use.
Water requirements are not expected to cause significant change to the hydrology of Slush Lake and downstream areas or impact to aquatic habitat.
Treated mine water will be discharged into Moon Lake.
A diffuser will be constructed in association with the pipeline to disperse effluent discharge, promote mixing and to reduce scouring of the lake bottom sediment.
The discharge of treated mine water is not expected to result in significant effects to fish and wildlife populations or fish habitat. Cameco said it is committed to ensuring the ore haul truck tarp will be water resistant and will fully cover the truck box.
This will prevent precipitation, dust or debris from potentially entering the truck box or causing the release of material.