Saskatchewan Juniors In A Most Excellent Adventure

 

Richard (Rick) Mills

Ahead of the Herd

Page 1 of 3

 

As a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information

 

In the history of mineral exploration, the quest for uranium is really in its infancy. Gold, silver, copper, iron and tin exploration, mining and refining can be traced back almost 10,000 years in some form.

 

Uranium wasn’t identified until 1789 and not isolated until 1841. Work done by Madame Currie lead to the first practical use of radioactivity, the common X-Ray machine. In WWI over a million patients had X-Rays taken and at the same time radiation treatment of cancer was born using radium.

 

Uranium ore was found in 1900 by the Geological Survey of Canada near the present Port Radium in Saskatchewan. The first Canadian commercial mine was called Eldorado and began production in 1930 - the principal uses of uranium being pigments, ceramic glazes, and a yellow-green fluorescent glass and as a source of radium for medical purposes.

 

Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann discovered nuclear fission in 1939. The Eldorado mine was taken over by the Canadian government in 1943 and produced the uranium for the atomic bombs dropped on Japan. Eldorado Mining and Refining remained owned by the Canadian government until 1988 when it merged with SMDC the predecessor company of Cameco.

 

“Exploration for uranium ore began in earnest in 1942 under direction of the government for military purposes. A wartime ban on private prospecting was lifted in 1947, which led in the early 1950s to the discovery of major deposits near Elliot Lake, Ontario, and northern Saskatchewan. By 1959, 23 mines and 19 treatment plants were in operation, and Canada's C$330 million in uranium exports exceeded the value for every other mineral.

 

 

A second burst of exploration in the 1970s resulted in major discoveries in the Athabasca Basin in northern Saskatchewan. Mines at Rabbit Lake, Cluff Lake and Key Lake started up in 1975, 1980 and 1983, which up until 2000 accounted for most of Canada's uranium production (14,223 tonnes of U3O8 in 1998).” World Nuclear Association

 

Athabasca Basin

 

Uranium prices were weak after the early post war demand subsided. It wasn’t until the mid 1960’s prices improved and exploration increased.

 

The Athabasca Basin is an ancient sedimentary basin located along the Northern Alberta-Saskatchewan border south of Lake Athabasca. The Basin covers approximately 100,000 square kilometers in Saskatchewan and a small portion of Alberta. With the Port Radium area thoroughly explored a consortium flew an airborne radiometric survey over the sandstones of the Basin in 1967.

 

Follow up on the survey resulted in the discovery of the Rabbit Lake mine in 1968.

 

The “Athabasca Basin” legend was born resulting in a huge staking rush by juniors and in particular large multinational oil companies.  This was the beginning of a prolific period of ongoing uranium discoveries incomparable to any other domain in the world.

 

When the Cluff Lake D Zone was found in 1969, the Athabasca Basin become host of the highest grade uranium deposit ever found up that time.

 

In 1975, the richest open-pit deposit in the world was discovered at Key Lake.

 

More than 15 uranium deposits totaling over 1.4 billion pounds of uranium have been discovered in the region since the Rabbit Lake mine discovery back in 1968

 

Today the Athabasca Basin of northern Saskatchewan hosts the world’s largest and richest high-grade uranium deposits accounting for approximately 15 percent of global primary uranium supply.

 

Athabasca uranium deposits have grades substantially higher than the world average grade of about 0.1% U3O8. The two dozen or so known uranium deposits within the Athabasca Basin have average grades of more than 3.0% U3O8.

 

Unconformity-related deposits

 

One thing almost all economic uranium deposits have in common is that the uranium is remobilized from one area and re-precipitated in a host rock where chemical conditions are conducive to concentrating the uranium in higher concentrations.

 

An unconformity is a time gap in the rock record between two rock units. The lower unit may be deformed, brecciated or altered while the overlying units are less deformed. Uranium deposits occur in both the underlying and overlying units.

 

In the underlying units, there may be a weathering zone, fault zone or some other feature that increases the rocks porosity and permeability. In the overlying units, it may be the sandstones or some other features that allows the concentration of uranium. 

 

 

 


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