Open Pit & Underground Mining
Since 1960, uranium has become one of the world's most important energy minerals. It is used almost entirely for generating electricity. Some uranium deposits are close to the surface, and can be mined by open pit techniques. Other deposits are found farther beneath the surface and are mined using hard-rock mining techniques. Open-pit techniques dominated uranium production in the 1980's and 1990's, but much of the Saskatchewan production in the 2000's has utilized special underground mining techniques, including Cameco's McArthur River mine.
Where orebodies lie close to the surface, they are usually accessed by open cut mining, involving a large pit and the removal of much overburden (overlying rock) as well as a lot of waste rock. Where orebodies are deeper, underground mining is usually employed, involving construction of access shafts and tunnels but with less waste rock removed and less environmental impact.
*Source: World Nuclear Association, 2011