The war between Russia and Ukraine isn’t even a week old and already it’s affecting world commodity markets.
Uranium is one of those markets, and Cameco spokesperson Jeff Hryhoriw said the price of spot uranium has gone up 13 per cent in five days.
“In 2020, Ukraine accounted for about 1.5 per cent of the world’s mined uranium production. And Russia’s two state-owned enterprises together accounted for about 15 per cent of total mined production around the world,” he said.
“It’s a sizable amount and we are watching closely for any action which could potentially affect the industry — especially the evolving suite of sanctions that may be enacted on Russia and Russian state-owned enterprises.”
On Feb. 9, Cameco announced that in 2022, after a 3 1/2-year shutdown, the company’s McArthur River mine and Key Lake processing facility would restart operations.
The company has signed contracts to produce 160 million pounds of uranium, which CEO Tim Gitzel said would keep the mine running for several years. The company will also need about 500 employees.
Hryhoriw believes what’s going on now between the two countries will accelerate the trend that the company already has seen underway.
That trend is the country of origin for uranium making a bigger difference for buyers, whether it’s geopolitical, security of supply, or ESG as he called it — environmental, social and governance models — that are becoming more and more important to world investors.
So what does that mean for Saskatchewan right now? Nothing in the short term, Hryhoriw said. But then again, that may change as the year goes on and the situation in Europe progresses as well.
“We’ll continue to watch and see if the market and the price improves to the point where they’re calling for increased production on a sustainable basis,” he added, “(and whether) this trend continues and firms up to the point where we believe the market is sufficiently incentivizing increased production.”
Right now, he said Cameco is well positioned to offer utilities around the world an alternative source of uranium should any sanctions on Russia affect either its short- or longer-term supply — and if “country of origin” production becomes more of an emphasis.