Automation systems for Cameco’s world-scale uranium milling operation

By Control Engineering Staff May 15, 2006

Cameco Corp. , said to be the world’s leading uranium producer, has selected Invensys Process Systems to implement a Foxboro automation system at one of the company’s northern Saskatchewan, Canada, facilities. A control system upgrade at the Rabbit Lake processing mill, the longest-operating uranium milling operation in Canada, will use I/A Series automation in the acid plant and powerhouse. These are the first implementations in a phased program that will next deploy Foxboro controls replacing outdated equipment for the remaining milling processes.

Rabbit Lake’s mill currently processes uranium ore from a local ore body, Eagle Point. In the future, the mill will also process uranium originating from the Cigar Lake mine. The new Invensys automation system will replace legacy controls for the milling processes.

The implementation will include I/A Series Version 8 hardware and software, distributed field mounted control processors in fault-tolerant configuration, running on I/A Series high-speed mesh control network. The system will accommodate a variety of field I/O platforms, including HART combined analog input and output signals, and serial connections to third-party devices. The I/A Series system will also interface with Modicon PLC systems using Foxboro’s latest redundant field device system integrator modules.

Invensys’ contract also covers professional services, including configuration engineering assistance, start-up and commissioning field services and training. The Foxboro mesh network process control system backbone reportedly uses advanced commercial communications technologies in robust industrial configurations. Providing high-availability, self-healing network performance, the mesh architecture can connect thousands of stations at data speeds up to one gigabit between network switches.

The company’s largest uranium operation, McArthur River mine, has used extensive I/A Series automation since 1999. At Cigar Lake, Invensys is implementing a highly distributed control system for a new Cameco mine at the world’s largest, undeveloped high-grade uranium-deposit.

— Richard Phelps, senior editor, Control Engineering