Cameco has announced plans to restart production later this month at its Cigar Lake uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan, Canada, which was suspended in December last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, Orano Canada said it will resume production at its McClean Lake uranium mill, where ore from Cigar Lake is processed.
Following an earlier five-month suspension of production at Cigar Lake from March 2020, Cameco in mid-December said production at the mine would again be temporarily suspended due to the increasing risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of that decision, Cameco placed Cigar Lake in a state of safe care and maintenance and significantly reduced the number of personnel at the site. In response to Cameco’s announcement, Orano Canada suspended production at its McClean Lake uranium mill.}
“In recent months we have 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 our eating areas,” Cameco President and CEO Tim Gitzel said on 9 April. “We also worked with the Saskatchewan Health Authority and have 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.”
Cameco said the timing of production restart and the production rate at Cigar Lake will be dependent on how quickly it is able to remobilise the workforce. It said it will not be in a position to provide updates to its outlook for 2021 until production has resumed and it understands the rate at which it will be able to sustainably operate the mine.
The company said that as the restart process begins it will closely monitor the number of COVID-19 cases and the success of the vaccine programme.
“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,” Gitzel added.
The Cigar Lake operation is owned by Cameco (50.025%), Orano Canada Inc (37.1%), Idemitsu Canada Resources Limited (7.875%) and TEPCO Resources Inc (5.0%) and is operated by Cameco.
Orano Canada announced on 9 April it will resume production at its McClean Lake uranium mill over the coming weeks in tandem with the announced restart of production at Cigar Lake.
“I am pleased with the restart of production at the Cigar Lake mine and McClean Lake mill,” said Orano Canada President and CEO Jim Corman. “Although we have had a small number of isolated positive COVID-19 cases at McClean Lake, our protocols have been tested to work and we have been able to manage the situation through testing, quick isolation measures and enhanced health and safety procedures.”
Source: World Nuclear News