In 1968, an affiliate of Gulf Oil Corporation acquired the rights to explore for minerals on 3.5 million acres in the Wollaston Lake Ford Belt located in the province's northeastern border. Using sophisticated technology, Gulf confirmed the existence of uranium deposits averaging five pounds of uranium oxide per ton of ore.
Originally, the plant was equipped with a semi-autogenous mill rated for 1,650-tons-per-day capacity. Screening followed with the oversized rock going back to the mill, and select rock being pumped into the cyclone separators. Acid leaching with counter-current decantation was followed by solvent extraction. The uranium solution is then treated with ammonia, which gives ammonium di-uranate precipitate. This is dried in a multi-hearth dryer to produce U3O8, which is finally packed into steel drums for transportation.
As the ore grade declined, it became necessary to treat 2,000 tons per day rather than the designed 1,500. To achieve this increased tonnage, Fluor subsequently installed a ball mill following the cascade mill. The ball mill operates in a closed circuit with the hydrocyclones.
The diesel generator plant consisted of three 2,500-kilowatt units. Waste heat from the plant was channeled to heat the offices and workshop areas for energy conservation. At such a remote location, it was advantageous to minimize the labor force, and a high degree of automation was installed in the plant.