The Uranium process from raw ore to yellowcake is a step by step process using pressure & temperature in Pachucha tanks, thickening, close pH monitoring and chemical additives, mostly as flocculants. We produce a pregnant aqueous, then flock making a barren strip. Not wanted minerals and metals are removed this way. Special chemicals are used to trick and strip out Moly, which likes to come along for the ride.
Tanker trucks, with a large pup trailer, come through town everyday hauling Hydrogen Peroxide to 3 different mills. Key Lake Mill is the largest uranium mill in the world in terms of production...it's huge. McLean Lake Mill is the only U mill in the world that can process non slurry ore...that is to say the actual rock. It has the proper heavy shielding to do so in the recieving bins, crushers then ball and rod mills. Rabbit Lake mill is the third. Rabbit and Key receive uranium ore already as a slurry in special tanks hauled by truck. 2 tanks to a truck.
Also coming through town daily are trucks with Lime, Molten Sulpher ( we make our own H2SO4 on site as transport hazardous), Acetone, and various flocculants, plus a lot of hardware and foodstuffs for the Mines, Mills and on site living 2 or 3 weeks at a time. Personnel fly in.
Yellowcake goes out in 55gal barrel drums for further refining and ultimately U rods for reactors worldwide...to those "on the list" that is.
Uranium is legally a strategic metal and the Mine ownership's, buying and selling are strictly controlled in terms of "as to who" but in a free market system of pricing. France has the highest level of minority ownership allowed at 49% of the Cigar Lake Mine and McLean Lake Mill.
Cameco is the main operator and owner, being formed out of the old El Dorado days, with joint Canadian and US ownership.
All of this trucking on gravel, unpaved roads, ice roads in the winter, that stretch hundreds of miles North to the Athabasca Basin.
If, if, if...CNR had simply put in a junction/switch in Prince Albert as they crossed the North Saskatchewan River and then built North, as they did exactly that in neighbouring Manitoba and Alberta ( Churchill and Hay River lines), then all this could go by rail, but it was not to be.
Exploration has backed off somewhat from it's usual frenzied pace with capital scarce and U prices low, however it is still quite active.
A new Mine will be producing soon at Patterson Lake, discovered by a couple of guys in their 30's, who are now Saskatchewan's newest billionaires. Rio Tinto has a dandy in the Roughrider deposit but that one is all hush hush.