The Athabasca Basin covers 100,000 square kilometres in northern Saskatchewan and Alberta – an area larger than New Brunswick. In 1888, Geological Survey of Canada geologist Richard McConnell first mapped the sandstone found along the southern shore of Lake Athabasca. Although sandstone units in the Athabasca Basin and the older Martin Basin to the north are among the least radioactive rocks on Earth, they hide major uranium deposits. In fact, uranium discovered by gold prospectors in the 1930s around tiny Martin Basin fuelled Canada’s nuclear defence and the energy production of CANDU reactors from 1943 to 1982.
Since 1975, the Canadian economy has benefited greatly from the Athabasca Basin’s uranium production, and its fabulous resources have been replenished by annual major discoveries since 1968. From 1943 to 1988, the Survey and the Crown Corporation Eldorado Nuclear Ltd. jointly explored and developed Canada’s nuclear energy resources. In 1988, Eldorado Nuclear and Saskatchewan Mining and Development Corporation were merged to form Cameco Corporation Limited, which is now a premier global miner. The Survey still delivers the geoscience that guides uranium exploration and development in collaboration with strong industry, provincial, and academic partners.