By Esme Whitehouse
Featured Image: ‘Uranium’ skies in Saskatchewan, Canada.
This week’s project is one I have been following for a while, primarily out of interest for the commodity in question, Uranium. The West McArthur uranium project is a joint venture between CanAlaska Uranium Ltd and Cameco. CanAlaska (TSXV:CVV, OTC:CVVUF, FWB:DH7N) own 70% of the project, which is located in the Athabasca basin, Saskatchewan, Canada.
The project is in great company in this location (Figure 1). It lies close to the producing McArthur River and Cigar Lake mines (both Cameco). Further, Canada has previously been the world’s largest uranium producer and deposits there are routinely much higher grade than the global average. Up until 2019, Canada had produced more uranium than anywhere else in the world. There is currently an estimated 606,600t U3O8 resources in the country. So, the West McArthur project is well positioned in terms of geology and appropriate infrastructure. Canada has also had plenty of experience regulating uranium mines and regulations there are already well established.
Cameco’s involvement is beneficial to the project as they operate the nearby McArthur River mine meaning there is plenty of experience in uranium mining behind West McArthur. There is also a potential for shared infrastructure and transportation if a mine will be developed here in the future. Also close by is Cameco’s Fox Lake discovery, which shows geophysical continuity with CanAlaska’s McArthur targets.
West McArthur comprises Archean and Lower Proterozoic metamorphic basement rocks (psammites, pelites, minor greenstones) unconformably overlain by 600-850m of horizontal Athabasca sandstones and conglomerates. Uranium mineralisation extends from depth 750m towards the surface, and the centre of the uranium zone trends towards two large cross structures. Cross structures which according to the Athabasca model, should also be mineralised.
CanAlaska were intending to drill these structures during their Winter 2019/20 drill program but were sadly cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic. Other remaining work includes drill testing North and North west of the discovery zone. The drill results they did obtain however are promising. They showed a number of structures overlying the unconformity near an untested target and corroborate their current geological model that says there is a N to NW orientated proximal mineralised feeder zone. So there is potential yet for the discovery to be upgraded.
Exploration work on the project (by several companies) prior to this includes numerous airborne and ground geophysical surveys, lithogeochemical surveys and lake sediment surveys. CanAlaska generated 8 main target areas, 4 of which have been drilled, from this data. Alteration and mineralisation are present in all, although 2 (Grid 1 and 5) show more promising results than the others. Grid 5 in fact has geophysical continuity with the nearby high-grade Fox Lake deposit (Figure 2) which led to the discovery of a new zone of high-grade Uranium mineralisation in 2017.
You may be wondering how significant uranium is considering today’s global geopolitical and environmental climate. I can tell you the answer is very. Approximately 10% of the world’s electricity comes from 440 operating nuclear power stations and it is the world’s second largest source of low-carbon energy . Aside from ‘clean’ energy, uranium is used in medical technology, scientific research, naval propulsion and producing strong military ballast. Our reliance on uranium it would seem goes largely under appreciated.
The demand for uranium is not set to decrease either. The global push to divest from ‘dirty’ energy sources and the associated desire to establish secure future domestic energy supplies is incentivising development of nuclear power plants on every continent. Just earlier this month the Chinese cabinet approved the construction of 2 new nuclear power plants.
Because I can’t imagine this has been nearly enough for you, Spotlight’s Liam Hardy and CanAlaska’s CEO Cory Belyk sat down (thousands of miles apart) to discuss the McArthur project:
N.B For an appropriate musical accompaniment - Elton Britt’s Uranium Fever.
CanAlaska Uranium Ltd: https://www.canalaska.com/
West McArthur technical report: https://www.canalaska.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/43101-MacArthurWest.pdf
References and interesting reads:
Other information obtained from the CanAlaska website and personal communications with Cory Belyk, CEO.