Canadian uranium major Cameco on Friday announced that the Cigar Lake mine, in northern Saskatchewan, would be reopened this month, but that the timing would depend on how quickly the workforce could be remobilised.
Operations at the high-grade uranium mine were halted in December. At the time, the company said it had difficulty in accessing qualified operational personnel to operate Cigar Lake.
CEO Tim Gitzel said that, in recent months, Cameco had implemented several enhanced safety protocols for Cigar Lake, including increased distancing between passengers on flights, mandatory medical-grade masks for all workers and increased sanitisation and physical barriers in the eating areas.
The company also worked with the Saskatchewan Health Authority and has established a licensed Covid-19 testing facility at the mine site.
“These further safety measures, along with the provincial vaccine rollout programme and increased confidence around our ability to manage our critical workforce, have given us greater certainty that Cigar Lake will be able to operate safely and sustainably,” Gitzel said in a statement.
Cameco did not provide an update for its 2021 production outlook and said that it would only do so once production had resumed.
“Having Cigar Lake running is part of our strategy and it was always our intention to resume production,” Gitzel said. “There are significant costs associated with having the mine in temporary care and maintenance, and we have a home in our contract portfolio for these low-cost pounds. We will also continue to purchase material, as needed, to meet our committed deliveries.
“Having said that, worker health and safety is our top priority, and we will not hesitate to take further action if we feel our ability to operate safely is compromised due to the pandemic.”
Cameco continues to deliver into its contract portfolio and its strong balance sheet has provided the company with the financial capacity to successfully manage the production disruption at Cigar Lake. At December 31, 2020, Cameco had $943-million in cash and short-term investments and a $1-billion undrawn credit facility.
The Cigar Lake operation is owned by Cameco (50.025%), Orano Canada Inc. (37.1%), Idemitsu Canada Resources Ltd. (7.875%) and TEPCO Resources Inc. (5.0%) and is operated by Cameco.