There is a good old-fashioned staking rush going on in northern Saskatchewan’s uranium-rich Athabasca Basin. Although the market hasn’t fully caught on, companies are flocking into the area, drawn by the sensational Fission Energy TSXV:FIS and Alpha Minerals TSXV:AMW discovery at Patterson Lake South.
Among the driving forces are Saskatchewan’s new online staking system, an increasingly optimistic supply-demand scenario and an escalating stream of news from the Fission/Alpha 50/50 JV.
That started in July 2011, when boulder field samples brought assays as high as 39.6% triuranium octoxide (U3O8). By November 2012, drilling confirmed the discovery not only with high grades but—in glaring contrast to the Basin’s east side—shallow mineralization.
Skyharbour Resources TSXV:SYH snapped up five properties totalling nearly 80,000 hectares, one of the area’s largest packages according to a March 20 announcement. Two of the properties lie 27 kilometres and 35 kilometres north of the PLS discovery, another two 15 kilometres south and the fifth 90 kilometres east. They got that land package for about 30 cents an acre. Packages of land have been offered to me in the last few days in the same area, comparable properties for upwards of $10 an acre.
Canada was the world’s largest uranium producer for many years, accounting for about 22% of world output, but in 2009 was overtaken by Kazakhstan. Canada produced 10,617 tonnes of U3O8 in 2008, and in 2009 production was 11,997 tonnes U3O8 (10,173 tU) – 20% of world total. Most of this comes from its third generation mines, which started operation in 1999 at McClean Lake and McArthur River in northern Saskatchewan (the Rabbit Lake mine in the same region is the third source).
Production comes mainly from the McArthur River mine in northern Saskatchewan province, which is the largest in the world.
Production is expected to increase significantly from 2013 as the new Cigar Lake mine comes into operation.
With known uranium resources of 572,000 tonnes of U3O8 (485,000 tU), as well as continuing exploration, Canada will have a significant role in meeting future world demand.