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Staking rush stirs Elliot Lake (04/05)

By IAN ROSS Climbing uranium prices have led to a staking rush in the Elliot Lake area, but government geologists aren’t about to invoke the hey-days of the 1950s and 60s.



Climbing uranium prices have led to a staking rush in the Elliot Lake area, but government geologists aren’t about to invoke the hey-days of the 1950s and 60s.


With the price of uranium nearly doubling in the last two years, exploration companies are out to secure global resources wherever they may find them. It has rekindled interest in Elliot Lake’s low-grade uranium deposits where companies such as CanAlaska Ventures and Quincy Gold are positioning themselves for the long run.


Many juniors are acquiring properties but haven’t publicly announced yet. The camp, says Sault Ste. Marie district resident geologist Mike Hailstone, is in the very early stages of exploration.


It is slim pickings to secure prime uranium property in Elliot Lake with 550 claim units staked in both the north and south limb. More than 300 claims were registered in last October alone.


An Ontario Geological Survey recommendation at a recent Manitoba mines and minerals show has helped stimulate interest in the Elliot Lake, but the claims grab in uranium is more an indication of global demand, according to Hailstone.


He sees a rosy future for those involved in uranium.


CanAlaska Ventures, a major player in Saskatchewan’s high-grade Athabasca Basin, is one of dozens of private companies and individuals that have recently secured claims around Elliot Lake.


The Vancouver-based explorer’s acquisition involves the development of a 7.5-million pound uranium deposit near Elliot Lake called Pardee, plus some additional prospective units nearby.


Quincy Gold, a Hancock, Mich. explorer, acquired an option for ten claims with known uranium mineralization from Canada Enerco Corp. Their land package covers Conecho and Roche Long Lac, situated northeast of the former Rio Algom and Denison mines, an area previously held by the Panel Mine.


According to old drill records and resource calculations, the combined properties may hold up to 20,000 pounds of uranium.


Company president Dan Farrell says the idea is to buy low and sell high.


Uranium prices in mid-March hovered around $22 per pound (U.S.). The historically low grade of the Elliot Lake deposit (less than one per cent) has juniors and individuals buying up land in hopes of finding something new.


By the time they find it, the hopes are the price will have risen enough to make mining it worthwhile.


With current projections at $40 per pound over the next 3-5 years, there may be active mines in Elliot Lake again.

“The potential is there certainly.”


Quincy does not have any exploration activity scheduled for this summer but may do some geophysics work in the fall.


Farrell says Elliot Lake deposits would require underground mining at great expense “so the price of uranium would have to move up pretty aggressively in the next few years.”


Production at Elliot Lake began in 1955 with 135,450 tonnes of uranium metal being produced to end of 1989 with average grade of 0.09 per cent from 12 deposits. Limited production continued to 1996.


Presently, there is a large gap between global uranium demand and mining production. Commercial inventories are being drawn down and new production capacity is required.


As demand for electricity worldwide continues to grow, nuclear power is becoming an accepted option. China, specifically, has an ambitious nuclear power development program underway.


Hailstone says only about 50 per cent of Elliot Lake’s underground reserves were ever mined.


The bulk of the uranium remains below the 4,200-foot level. That might require the adoption of new technologies used in the oil and gas industry known as hydro-fracking to extract the uranium.


Farrell says the “flavour of day” in the uranium mining business is a method known as in situ leaching (ISL), a cost effective and environmentally-friendly technique involving pumping a liquid solution into an ore body to recover minerals by leaching.


It produces no tailings or waste ground and is used in sandstone formations in New Mexico and Wyoming.