Wheeler River is the largest undeveloped uranium project in the infrastructure rich eastern portion of the Athabasca Basin region, in northern Saskatchewan
Denison Mines Corp. (“Denison” or the “Company”) (TSX: DML) (NYSE American: DNN) is pleased to announce its decision to restart the formal Environmental Assessment (“EA”) process for the 90% owned Wheeler River Uranium Project (“Wheeler River” or the “Project”) effective January 2021. The decision to resume the EA process marks the end of the temporary suspension announced in March 2020 amidst the significant social and economic disruption that emerged as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic (see Denison’s news release from March 20, 2020). View PDF Version.
David Cates, Denison’s President & CEO, commented, “In the coming days, formal notifications will be submitted to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (‘CNSC’) and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment (‘MOE’)to restart the EA process. These notifications will inform the regulators of Denison’s intention to resume various activities designed to meet the regulatory requirements for an Environmental Impact Statement (‘EIS’) supporting the advancement of Wheeler River as Canada’s first In-Situ Recovery (‘ISR’) uranium mine.
With over $29 million in cash on the balance sheet at the end of October, Denison is well funded to resume the Wheeler River EA process and is currently finalizing its plans for the resumption of the EA as part of the Company’s 2021 budgeting process. A key milestone for the EA process in 2021 is expected to be the resumption of community engagement activities, adapted to reflect COVID-19 protocols and best practices, to facilitate information sharing with interested parties. Additionally, advancing the EA process will involve the completion of third-party technical studies and assessments, ahead of the preparation and submission of a draft EIS, which is currently targeted for early 2022.”
The EA is an important planning and decision-making tool that involves predicting potential environmental effects throughout the project lifecycle (construction, operation, decommissioning and post-decommissioning) at the site, and within the local and regional assessment areas. The EA process is part of the critical path for the advancement of Wheeler River to a future development decision. Denison initiated the EA for Wheeler River in 2019 with the submission of a Project Description and Technical Proposal (together referred to as the “Project Description”) to the CNSC and MOE. The Project Description was accepted in the second quarter of 2019, formally initiating the EA process for the Project in accordance with the requirements of both the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 and the Saskatchewan Environmental Assessment Act. In late December 2019, Denison received a Record of Decision from the CNSC on the scope of the factors to be taken into account for the Wheeler River EA, which indicate that the EA will follow the CNSC’s generic guidelines.
The Wheeler River EA will draw on the knowledge and expertise of various technical experts in the fields of hydrogeology, aquatics, hydrology, terrestrial ecology, socio economics, and atmospheric and acoustic sciences. The expert knowledge collected through this process will be used to evaluate the potential project effects on the environment and, where applicable, develop mitigation criteria for the life of the operation. Denison considers this process to be iterative – involving repeated and ongoing interaction with project design, as the Company advances towards a future feasibility study and further detailed engineering. This integrated approach ensures the Project will meet regulatory requirements, protect people and the environment, and maintain operational efficiency.
The Company previously announced plans for 2020 in its annual Management Discussion & Analysis (“MD&A”) for the year ended December 31, 2019 (the “Initial 2020 Outlook”). Those plans identified discretionary work related to the advancement of the Wheeler River EA with a total cost of approximately $7.0 million. As updated in the Company’s MD&A for the quarters ended March 30, 2020 and June 30, 2020, the Company’s Outlook for 2020 was adapted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the decision to temporarily suspend the Wheeler River EA (“Updated 2020 Outlook”). While the Company’s internal environmental and technical teams continued to advance certain scopes of work related to the EA during 2020 (see Denison’s news release dated October 28, 2020), the Updated 2020 Outlook did not include the discretionary EA work identified in the Initial 2020 Outlook.
Now, in support of the planned resumption of the EA in 2021, the Company has approved certain discretionary scopes of work for the remainder of 2020 – each of which is designed to best position Denison to resume the EA process. The Company’s latest Outlook for 2020 (“Latest 2020 Outlook”) is outlined in its MD&A for the period ended September 30, 2020 and reflects these additional discretionary scopes of work as part of the $700,000 of additional evaluation expenditures outlined for Wheeler River in 2020.
The future scope and cost associated with the resumption of the EA and the associated activities for 2021 are still to be determined, and are expected to be included in the Company’s future disclosure of its overall business plans for 2021, which is expected to follow the completion of the Company’s annual budgeting process.
Source: Company Press Release