• The grades of Athabasca Basin’s uranium deposits are typically more than 20 times higher than the global average (2% vs. 0.14% U3O8). However, several deposits with grades around the world average of 0.2% U3O8 have been discovered during the last decade. Typically, the high-grade and shallow deposits are developed first into mines followed by all other deposits with lesser grades and riskier geology.
• In 1968, Gulf Minerals discovers the Rabbit Lake deposit (100% Cameco) – 7 years later, mining commenced having produced some 200 million lbs uranium (2012: 3.8 million lbs U3O8). Mill capacity: 17 million lbs U3O8.
• Discovered in 1981 by Areva, Cigar Lake (50% Cameco, 37% Areva, 8% Idemitsu, 5% Tepco) is set to become the world’s 2nd largest high-grade uranium mine in 2014 with a planned annual production of 18 million lbs U3O8.
• Discovered in 1988 and starting production in 2000, McArthur River (70% Cameco, 30% Areva) is the world’s largest high-grade uranium mine producing some 20 million pounds U3O8 per year jointly with the Key Lake Mine only 80 km far away.
(5) The Athabasca Basin is home to second-to-none infrastructure
• Modern, state-of-the-art technology being largely available and cost-effective, and experienced professionals.
• Currently, 3 operating mills with a licensed capacity of 44 million pounds uranium annually are in operation.
• Since the 1980s, some $7 billion were invested in the development of the Athabasca Basin, which includes capital, exploration, reclamation and pre-development expenditures, but excludes operating expenditures. The last 3 years alone (2010-2012) have contributed $1.8 billion to this figure which represents a large increase from the $1.9 billion that were invested during the first 10 years of the new millennium (figures from Saskatchewan Mining Association).
• In 2011, capital expenditures exceeded $700 million, whereas $330 million were spent for salaries. However, exploration expenditures stood at only $35 million. The Athabasca Basin is still largely underexplored. Only the eastern part of the basin has been explored well with several deposits discovered during the last decade. New focus has been driven to the southwest lately and we are confident that the neglected northern part of the Athabasca Basin will see major discoveries soon as well.
Key Lake, the world‘s largest uranium mill, has delivered uranium oxide (U3O8) to world markets for more than 25 years (Source: Cameco):
For investors, the Athabasca Basin is the place to be by taking seat early, and at rock-bottom prices, in the very first row for a spectacle boom story about to uncurtain as it stands for the single best uranium district in the world to mine and, more importantly for investors, exploration for new discoveries. Or as VisualistCapitalist.com concluded correctly:
“As the world moves toward a nuclear-powered future, operations in the Athabasca Basin are well-positioned to take advantage of the uranium opportunity.”