Cameco (TSX: CCO; NYSE: CCJ) announced today that it is resuming production at its Port Hope Conversion Facility’s UF6 plant and its Blind River Refinery in Ontario. Both operations are planned to restart the week of May 18, 2020 and achieve regular production levels the week of May 25, 2020.
On April 8, 2020, Cameco announced that these facilities would be placed in a temporary safe shutdown state for approximately four weeks and, where possible, maintenance work scheduled for the summer would be advanced. Screening protocols and other measures put in place to align with government and public health directives around COVID-19 were contributing to workforce uncertainty at the UF6 plant, which is a complex operation designed to run as a continuous process without interruption. The decision was therefore made to suspend production at the plant, as well as at the Blind River Refinery, since the majority of the UO3 produced there is used in the production of UF6 at Port Hope.
The workforce situation has now stabilized, providing Cameco with increased certainty around the availability of necessary personnel to operate the UF6 plant. With the appropriate conditions currently in place to resume normal operations, we have decided to return both the plant and the refinery to production.
“The provinces and communities where we operate are certainly not out of the woods when it comes to this global pandemic, and we must remain vigilant in how we manage our activities during these challenging times,” said Cameco president and CEO Tim Gitzel. “However, we are confident that we can maintain the required roster of qualified operators to run the UF6 plant going forward, enabling us to carefully bring the plant and the UO3 refinery back into production.”
During the temporary shutdown of these two sites, the remainder of Cameco’s Ontario operations, including UO2 production at the Port Hope Conversion Facility and fuel bundle production at Cameco Fuel Manufacturing, continued to operate safely.
Given the evolving nature of the COVID-19 situation and the number of moving pieces, on April 13, 2020 Cameco withdrew its 2020 outlook for its fuel services division, including production. We do not expect to resume providing outlook information until we have a sufficient basis to do so.
While the two Ontario facilities return to production, there is no change in the status of Cameco’s Cigar Lake uranium mine. The operation remains in a safe state of care and maintenance for an indeterminate duration, as pandemic conditions continue to challenge a number of northern Saskatchewan communities.
Cameco continues to closely monitor the situation around all of its facilities and follow the guidance of government and public health authorities. Significant safety measures to limit the risk posed by COVID-19 remain in place across our operations, and we will move quickly to adjust our plans should circumstances warrant to ensure the well-being of our workers, their families and communities.
Cameco is one of the largest global providers of the uranium fuel needed to energize a clean-air world. Our competitive position is based on our controlling ownership of the world’s largest high-grade reserves and low-cost operations. Utilities around the world rely on our nuclear fuel products to generate power in safe, reliable, carbon-free nuclear reactors. Our shares trade on the Toronto and New York stock exchanges. Our head office is in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.