Uranium developer NexGen Energy’s Arrow uranium project, in Saskatchewan, Canada, is uniquely positioned to rebalance global supply back to more geopolitically sustainable levels, says NexGen Energy corporate development VP Travis McPherson.
He tells Mining Weekly that Arrow will be the world’s largest and lowest-cost uranium mine and, “importantly, produced from an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nation”.
The OECD is an intergovernmental economic organisation with 36 member countries, founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade.
He comments that the significance of jurisdictional diversification has never been as present as it is currently, with historical OECD sources depleting, no new projects being able to access capital since the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, and the rise in supply by Kazakhstan and Russia, which currently account for more than 60% of global supply.
NexGen Energy started a 125 000 m feasibility-stage drilling programme at the Arrow deposit in December last year.
Phase 1 is designed to convert most of the existing indicated resources into the measured category, which is the highest confidence level, says McPherson. Phase 2, which will start and be completed towards the end of this year, is designed to convert more of the inferred resources into the indicated category, which will enable the company to include it in the feasibility study mine plan. The feasibility study, due in the first quarter of 2020, will include only measured and indicated resources.
With the large existing indicated resource base of more than 250-million pounds uranium oxide and another nearly 100-million pounds of inferred resources – of which the company has already seen very high conversion into the indicated category – NexGen Energy has determined that the best strategy is to proceed forward towards production and stop expanding the deposit at this time. The deposit, however, remains open in all directions.
“There is enough in terms of resources to position Arrow to generate nearly C$1-billion of free cash flow yearly – defining more resources today does not make sense from a capital allocation perspective but we will get to that in the future,” McPherson explains.
Community and Environmental Initiatives
NexGen Energy recently won industry organisation Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada’s 2019 Environmental and Social Responsibility Award for employing the latest technologies to reduce exploration’s environmental footprint, and fostering economic and social development in neighbouring communities through a variety of initiatives.
The company’s community advancement initiatives include a student mentorship programme, which has helped about 30 students to develop skills across a range of vocations. To date, four students are continuing to post-secondary education through bursaries provided by NexGen Energy.
Another key programme is the breakfast programme, in partnership with charity organisation Breakfast Club of Canada, where NexGen Energy provides a healthy breakfast for every learner in La Loche, Saskatchewan, every school day. This has resulted in attendance and enrolment rates in the schools increasing month over month and year over year, McPherson highlights.
Meanwhile, NexGen Energy has best-practice procedures in place for the reclamation of drill pads; reduced drill pad locations using directional drilling which enables multiple targets to be drilled from one pad location; and the use of centrifuges for safe, reduced and sustainable water consumption.
On the design front, NexGen Energy is considering avenues to make Arrow the leading mine globally in terms of environmental standards. The Arrow project is designed for 100% of tailings to be stored underground.
“This comes at an upfront capital and operational cost, but it means that we are conducting ongoing reclamation as we mine, creating an opportunity whereby when the mine is depleted, there will be no signs of the mine ever having been there in the years thereafter,” McPherson concludes.Creamer Media Deputy Editor: Features