SASKATOON — Cameco Corp. says it will temporarily suspend production at its Cigar Lake uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan after six positive COVID-19 tests in recent weeks at northern operations, including three at the mine.
The Saskatoon-based company says the mine will be placed in a “safe state of care and maintenance,” resulting in a significant reduction in personnel and $8 million to $10 million in costs.
It says growing infection rates in the province have created increased uncertainty over access to qualified operational personnel at the mine.
Cameco says it will continue to monitor the pandemic situation in northern Saskatchewan, the impact on communities and availability of employees and contractors to travel to Cigar Lake.
There were about 300 workers on-site at peak production this fall.
The company plans to increase market purchases of uranium to meet its sales commitments but deliveries aren’t expected to be materially impacted this year.
“The safety of our workers, their families and communities is our top priority,” stated Cameco president and CEO Tim Gitzel.
“While the protocols we have put in place have to date allowed us to effectively manage these cases, there are broader risks we don’t control. Therefore, we believe it is prudent to do our part to continue to protect our people and our operations from the increasing threats that are outside our influence.”
As of Sept. 30, Cameco’s share of Cigar Lake production was 2.3 million pounds of uranium concentrates. However, the mine’s suspension means the company doesn’t expect to achieve forecasts for 5.3 million pounds of production this year.
The Cigar Lake operation is owned by Cameco (50.025 per cent), Orano Canada Inc. (37.1 per cent), Idemitsu Canada Resources Ltd. (7.875 per cent) and TEPCO Resources Inc. (five per cent).
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 14, 2020.
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The Canadian Press